World's biggest fish tagged in India

Veraval (Gujarat), Dec 28 : As the year comes to an end, India took another small step towards learning more about the world's biggest fish - the whale shark. A female whale shark was successfully satellite-tagged on Saturday in order to learn more about the movement and preferences of this gentle giant.

The tagging, second ever in the country, was done this morning by the Whale Shark Conservation Project team members with the help of the fishing community in Sutrapada, Gujarat.

A joint initiative of the Gujarat Forest Department and International Fund for Animal Welfare - Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI), supported by Tata Chemicals Limited, the Project works to gather more information on the species to help develop effective conservation strategies.

Congratulating the team, Alka Talwar, Head - Community Development at Tata Chemicals said, "Satellite tagging is a significant exercise for the conservation of this endangered species. Tagging will aid in exploring new facts and data on Whale Sharks habitat and provide precise information on their migratory pattern, breeding, survival on the Gujarat coast.

"With this, we look forward to seeing more information, which will help us conserve this beautiful species. "

Aradhana Sahu, Deputy Conservator of Forests - Junagadh, said, "Gujarat has been leading the way in conservation of whale sharks in the country, with the fishing community coming forward to save the species over the past decade. This satellite-tagging is yet another step to help us save better the whale shark, our Vhali, our pride."

"This is a significant milestone for whale shark conservation in India," said BC Choudhury, Project Advisor, WTI. "In the coming weeks, we will be tagging more fish, applying the modified methodology to ensure minimal stress on the fish."

The whale shark tagged this morning was a female, around 18 feet long, informed WTI biologist Prem Jothi, who implanted the tag. It was caught in fishing net, and was released post-tagging. This is the second ever for the country.

Whale sharks were once brutally hunted in Gujarat for its liver oil used to water proof boats. In 2001, the whale shark became the first fish to be listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Following the hugely successful Whale Shark Campaign launched by the Forest Department, IFAW-WTI and Tata Chemicals, in 2004, the fishing community of Gujarat began releasing whale sharks accidentally caught in their nets.

Till date, release of around 400 whale sharks has been recorded.

--IBNS (Posted on 28-12-2013)

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