Female whale shark satellite-tagged off Gujarat coast

A female whale shark was successfully satellite-tagged by the Whale Shark Conservation Project team members with the help of the fishing community in Sutrapada, Gujarat on Saturday. This tagging, is expected to help learn more about the movement and preferences of world's biggest fish species.

The whale shark tagged this morning was a female, around 18 feet long, informed biologist Prem Jothi from Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). Jothi himself implanted the tag. The shark was caught in fishing net, and was released post-tagging.

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.

"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."

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.

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 Whale Shark Conservation Project works to gather more information on the species to help develop effective conservation strategies.

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