Gujarat forest department and researchers of an NGO made an attempt to satellite-tag a whale shark off Sutrapada coast in Gir Somnath district on Friday,but the operation remained unsuccessful after the tag got entangled in fishing net.
Local forest officers said Umesh Dalki,owner of he fishing boat Jai Om Sagar, reported at around 10:20 am that a whale shark had been trapped in his fishing net. Soon,forest offices and Prem Joti,a marine biologist working with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI),the NGO working on a whale shark project,reached the boat. We fixed a floating tag under the first fin of the animal. But the tag got entangled in the fishing net and eventually got detached from the animal, Joti told The Indian Express.
The biologist said that the animal was a 36-feet long male and caught some 18 nautical mile off Sutrapada coast in the Arabian sea. The WTI is working on the project to find out if the whales found in the Arabian sea are a distinct population or the animal migrate near the Gujarat coast from other waters. The NGO has been working on the project for the last two years and has already fixed satellite tags on two whales so far in its five attempts. The latest successful tagging was done on December 27,2013 near Sutrapada. The first tagging was done around 18 months ago,deputy conservator of forest (Junagadh division),Aradhna Sahu said.
The project is jointly funded by the state government,Tata Chemical and others. Professor Binodchandra Choudhury,scientific adviser for the project,said that they had attempted fixing a floating tag to get more data. The previous two tags were fin-mounted spot tags. But we had chosen floating spot tag this time to get more data about the animal. Even if the animal remains under water at some depth,the transmitter remains on the surface of the water and transmits data in more frequency, said Prof Choudhury.
However,the tag got stuck in the net. We did not want to strain the animal by keeping it in the net for long and hence released it, Prof Choudhury further said.
The tag was worth around Rs1.8 lakh ($3,000 approximately). He added that they were tagging whale sharks opportunistically.
Whale Shark is a Schedule-I animal and the wildlife laws of India do not permit restraining such animals for long hours. So,we are doing tagging whenever such animals are accidentally trapped in nets of fishermen, said Professor Choudhury.
The adviser said that as part of the project,fishermen along Saurashtra coast had been given 1,500 cameras to record trapping of whale sharks as documentation process.
We have six more tags and we shall continue our attempts for tagging till March. Ideally,we will like to tag 20 animals and extend our project to Maharashtra,Goa and Karnantaka coasts,but that will depend on the availability of funds, the professor added. Professor Choudhury further added that the present location of the whale tagged on December 27 was found to be near Goa coast.