Do not touch the whale sharks, Sabah Parks tells divers

KOTA KINABALU: With the whale shark season back in Sabah, divers and the public have been told to refrain from going too near or touching this marine species.

Sabah Parks director Dr Maklarin Lakim said it is not right to touch sea creatures unless it is for scientific purposes.

“This must come together with a permit and approval from the authorities.

“As divers know, the rule to stay clear of marine creatures and not touch them is included in the syllabus ... for diving certification.

“Everyone knows they are not supposed to touch these creatures in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP),” he said when contacted yesterday.

Asked about the migratory season of these marine species, Maklarin said normally, whale sharks move to Sabah waters around March till June, but due to global climate change, the timing has somewhat shifted.

He said these marine creatures travel through many parts of the world and their visit to each place varies.

“I think the presence of whale sharks varies according to localities. It is predicted between March and June here during the dry season. But now, the climate is always unpredictable,” he said.

TARP includes the Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug islands, off Kota Kinabalu.

Incidents of visitors touching marine species and even riding on whale sharks have been reported sporadically in Sabah over the years.

The latest incident reported was in November 2022, where a snorkeller was caught on video riding on a whale shark off Sibuan Island in Semporna district.

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