In decade-long effort at Whale Shark conservation in Gujarat, a total of 412 of the world’s largest fish species have been rescued off the state’s western coast where it was once brutally hunted.
“We have so far saved 412 Whale Sharks that got accidentaly trapped in fishermen’s nets along the coast of Gujarat. This is a big achievement for us,” said CN Pandey, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), state forest department while addressing a seminar organised on the occasion of the International Whale Shark Day observed on Saturday.
Just a decade ago, Whale sharks (Rhincodon Typus) were brutally hunted across the shores of Gujarat. To stop this slaughter, it was brought under the protection of Indian laws in 2001, making it the first fish to be listed in Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. In 2004, Gujarat Forest Department joined hands with Interntional Fund for Animal Welfare — Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) and Tata Chemicals to begin a Whale Shark conservation campaign.
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“We have so far given away a total of Rs 65 lakh as compensation to fishermen who have cut their fishing nets to free the fish as part of this conservation campaign,” said Pandey while addressing an audience consisting of fishermen, scientists and wildlife experts who had come from different areas of the country. A few fishermen and forest guards were also honoured for their efforts during the event.
According to officials of the Wildlife Trust of India, a total of Rs 3 crore have been spent so far on the conservation efforts of this species. This includes satellite-tagging of the fishes.
“We want to take this conservation efforts further. Today, the project is at such a stage that we have an idea of the seasonality of their visits.
But more studies need to be undetaken for their habitat conservation, migration and reproductive behaviour,” Pandey added.