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Fascinating Footage Captures Whale Shark's Tricky Way of Stealing From Fishermen's Nets

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"The sharks frequently stay for hours at a time, gorging themselves on baitfish..."

The world's largest fish species -- a whale shark -- has learned to an interesting technique to attain a high density of food: stealing from fishermen's heavy-laden nets.

(Related: Viral Video: Shark Stealing Woman's First Catch Gets Nearly 2 Million Views in 2 Days)

Well, as Grind TV points out, the argument could be made that the shark isn't really stealing. Regardless, the whale shark has figured out how to "suck" out the small bait fish being caught in the net, via holes that already exist.

The footage posted by Conservation International was taken in Indonesia's Cendrawasih Bay. Check it out:

In a blog post, Mark Erdmann wrote the sharks often congregate to gorge themselves in these fishing areas, making it easy for researchers to tag the creatures:

Along with colleagues from WWF-Indonesia, Hubbs Sea World Research Institute and the State University of Papua, we are aiming to do something which has never been tried before: insert radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags into every shark we encounter, in order to rapidly determine the size of the bay’s population while also allowing us to monitor individuals’ movements in the bay over the coming years.

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This technology has never been tried before with whale sharks, in large part because it‘s fairly impractical to swim after the giants (they can reach over 15 meters, which is almost 50 feet in length!) with a receiver wand underwater. However, the whale sharks of Cendrawasih Bay have a unique habit that makes this technique possible: they aggregate at bagan (lift net) fishing platforms to feast upon the small silverside baitfish that the fishers are targeting. The sharks frequently stay for hours at a time, gorging themselves on baitfish — and during this time they are incredibly easy to approach.

(Related: Massive Whale Shark Pulled Dead From Arabian Sea)

The organization is tagging the fish because "despite all of our technology and science, humans have very little understanding of the world’s largest fish."

Even though the whale sharks may think they have found a treasure trove of food with the netting areas, Conservation International stated that during its tagging expedition, some of the animals got tangled in the nets. Erdmann wrote they used this instance to discuss with fishermen net design changes that could prevent the sharks, which they actually consider good luck, from getting inside the net itself.

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