Save the WHALES! WTI & Forest/Wildlife/Fisheries Dept Mark Intl Whale Shark Day

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Save the WHALES! Wildlife Trust of India & Forest & Wildlife & Fisheries Department mark International WHALE SHARK DAY

Mangaluru: To commemorate International Whale Shark Day, Wildlife Trust India launched the Whale Shark Conservation Campaign. The campaign was inaugurated by Angara Sullia, Hon’ble Minister of Fisheries, Ports, and Inland Transport Department, Karnataka. The year-long campaign will be implemented along the coast of Karnataka, Kerala, and the Lakshadweep Islands in collaboration with the Forest and Wildlife and Fisheries Departments of respective states.

This project aims to connect marine fisher folks, village communities, and students for conservation awareness on the Whale Shark, the largest fish in the World. Further, the campaign also aims to reduce accidental entanglements in fishing nets with fishers releasing whale sharks. The launch event was at Milagres Golden Jubilee Hall, Mangaluru.

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish on earth and a keystone species in our marine ecosystem. It can grow to a length of approximately 18 m and weigh as much as 21 metric tons. Although distributed widely across tropical and warm temperate seas, limited information is available on the population trends of this species, especially along the Indian coastline. The big fish has the highest level of protection as a Schedule I Species in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The yearlong conservation campaign will run along coastal Karnataka, Kerala and the Lakshadweep Islands in collaboration with the Forest and Fisheries Departments of Karnataka, Kerala and the Lakshadweep Administration.

‘Save the Whale Shark Campaign’ aims to connect marine fisher folks, village communities and students for conservation awareness on the Whale Shark, the largest fish in the World. Further, the campaign also aims to reduce accidental entanglements in fishing nets with fishers releasing whale sharks. A mobile application has been developed to record whale shark spotting and rescues for further conservation action. A similar WTI project operational in Gujarat for the last 20 years has resulted in fisher folks releasing over 900 whale sharks in the Arabian Sea. All the fishers who have rescued the big fish have been made Whale Shark Conservation Champions.

Earlier, the fisher folks all along the west coast of India used to hunt the whale shark from their aggregation locations and commercially trade them. Today accidental entanglement in fishing nets, collision with boats as well as extensive coastal pollution are major threats to whale sharks. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports whale shark populations as decreasing and its global status notified as ‘Endangered’. The only way to curb accidental mortality is to ensure the release of the entangled whale sharks from the fishing net without any delay. For this, the primary target group, which is the fishers, needs to be sensitized. The rising level of plastic debris in our oceans is a large-scale environmental problem with widespread impacts. Owing to their feeding strategies, this filter-feeding megafauna is particularly susceptible.

To address these issues, WTI is expanding the Whale Shark Conservation project with the support from Oracle along the coast of Karnataka, and reinstating the campaign effort back in the states of Kerala and Lakshadweep. Therefore, the main goal of this project is to reduce and eradicate Whale Shark death in the incidental catch in fishing nets by the voluntary release of the Whale Shark. This initiative targets the marine fishers along these two states and the island of Lakshadweep.”

Speaking on the occasion, Vivek Menon, the founder and Government Director of WTI, stated the Karnataka coast and the realm between Karnataka and Lakshadweep has good sightings of Whale Shark, which is among the many protected marine species beneath Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Safety Act. The WTI is making fishermen privy to the necessity to shield the species and launch it within the sea if it has been by accident caught. Mr Menon stated the marketing campaign initiated in Gujarat in 2002 has been a hit and over 800 sharks have been launched by fishermen up to now

Sajan John, the Co-Principal Investigator of WTI’s Marine Mission, stated that WTI began the marketing campaign in Kerala and union territory Lakshadweep in 2017. Attributable to Covid-19, the marketing campaign was halted. The WTI is reinstating marketing campaigns within the two locations now, he stated.

Launching the marketing campaign, Minister for Fisheries, Ports and Inland Transport S. Angara stated the forest division and ports division can be actively concerned with WTI within the marketing campaign. “Presently we would not have clear thoughts about sharks and their conservation in Karnataka. This year-long marketing campaign could be a watch opener,” he stated. Karnataka authorities are working in the direction of conserving native recent water breeding fish species in Dakshina Kannada and different components of the State, he stated. Minister Angara stressed the need for conserving the whale sharks, as well as native species of fish that are on the verge of extinction in inland water bodies in Dakshina Kannada. According to him, there were more than 50 native fish species in freshwater in the district, which were all under the threat of extinction.

Assistant Conservator of Forests, Udupi, Clifford Lobo, stated that there has not been any occasion of fishermen catching sharks alongside the Karnataka shoreline within the last 10 years. As a part of the marketing campaign, emphasis can be laid on stopping the discharge of untreated effluents into the river and sea, he stated. He also said that the proposed tree park within the coastal part of Kundapur in the Udupi district can have sculptures of various marine species.

The proposed tree park can have a separate part associated with Marine biology. “The main target right here can be to make individuals privy to protected marine species. Now we have decided to have sculptures of various marine species right here. The proposal for a Tree park in Kundapur is awaiting sanction from the State Authorities, stated Lobo. Trawler boat fishermen union president Chetan Bengre said: “Fishermen consider whale sharks as God. There is a need to create awareness among the younger generation of fishermen about conservation.”

The welcome address was delivered by Ananda Banerjee- Director & Chief of Communications & Campaigns-WTI, following which the programme was inaugurated by the lighting of the lamp by the chief guests and other dignitaries on the dais. The mascot “MEENU” was released on the occasion. Guest of honour Harish Kumar-Joint Director of Fisheries, Managluru also spoke on the occasion. A video screening showcasing WTI’s Whale shark conservation was presented to the audience. Special address by Dr H N Anjaneyappa-the Dean of Fisheries College, Mangaluru, where he gave an elaborate description of the whale and its existence.

Following an informative kit by the students of Mangalore University, the vote of thanks was proposed by Charan K Paidi-the assistant manager-WTI. The programme was professionally and eloquently compered by Sajan John, the Co-Principal Investigator of WTI’s Marine Mission-Cochin.

ABOUT WILD TRUST of INDIA:

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a leading Indian nature conservation organization committed to the service of nature. Its mission is to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments. Since its inception in 1998, WTI has been working towards achieving its vision of a secure natural heritage of India.

The Mission of WTI is to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals in partnership with communities and governments. And WTI’s vision is to secure the natural heritage of India. WTI has been in service since 1998.

For more  information: www.wti.org.in

Additional Photo inputs from Dominic Saldanha- a budding young photographer, Mangaluru

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