THE MAHARASHTRA fisheries department and the state-run Mangrove cell have initiated a probe and taken two men into custody after the carcass of an endangered whale shark was found on Sassoon Dock in Colaba on Wednesday.
The 25-foot female whale shark was illegally caught by a fishing trawler and abandoned at the dock, officials said after preliminary probe. It had been cut into pieces for sale even before the state fisheries department officials reached the dock. In March last year, a 10-foot carcass of a baby whale shark with dismembered fins were found in Mahul creek.
Whale sharks or Rhincodon typus are the largest of the shark family and are a protected species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972, which makes their capture and killing a cognizable offence. The species, often found along the western coast, is also listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Despite the ban, adult whale sharks are often caught and killed for their liver oil and fins.
According to the fisheries department authorities, a case has been lodged against a trader for trying to procure the meat from an unidentified fisherman, and a tempo driver for assisting the trader to transport the fish. Both the men have been taken into custody, while a search is on for the fisherman, officials said.
In a tweet, Atul Patne, commissioner, state fisheries department, said, “The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is slow-moving filter-feeding carpet shark and the largest known extant fish species. I have instructed my officers for investigation already… Strict action will be taken against the culprits.”
An officer from Mangrove cell said the liver and fins of the whale shark have been accounted, however, its tail was missing. The dismembered carcass would be sent for post-mortem at Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli and later buried as per the standard operating procedure, another official said.
The incident comes around a week after the fisheries department initiated an investigation and called for action against unauthorised fishing practices affecting rare and endangered marine species along the state’s coastline.
Whale sharks are known to breed in Gujarat and Malvan in Maharashtra. As per the Whale Shark Conservation Project, 2013, of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), surveys on the Gujarat coast had revealed the presence four whale shark pups, first to be reported from India. Another pup was rescued in February 2017 in the waters of the fishing village of Sutrapada.
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