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International Whale Shark Day

  • Published
    31st Aug, 2022
Context

Delhi-based non-profit, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) launched ‘Save the Whale Shark Campaign’ along Karnataka, Kerala and Lakshadweep in Mangaluru on International Whale Shark Day (August 30).

About

International Whale Shark Day

  • International Whale Shark Day is a day to let people know about the importance of whale sharks and their conservation.
  • On this day, people can learn about the amazing creatures and work to protect them.
  • History: During the International Whale Shark Conference in 2008 in Isla Holbox, over 40 whale experts and ocean activists declared August 30th International Whale Day.
  • Since then the day continues to educate the world about the whale’s declining numbers.
  • In fact, in 2016, the whale shark was reclassified by the IUCN, moving from a vulnerable species to an endangered one, which is incredibly worrying.
  • According to some estimates, it is believed that there are only tens of thousands of these sharks life across the globe. 
  • This year’s theme is “The Future of Sharks: Guardians of Our Seas.” 

Whale sharks

  • The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish on Earth and a keystone species in marine ecosystems.
  • They can live for up to 70 years and reach a height of over 12 feet. They are also one of the most endangered species
  • The whale shark’s habitat is found in the tropical seas around the world.
  • Whale sharks are carnivores, but their teeth are only 6 mm long.
  • Like human fingerprints, whale sharks each have a unique skin pattern.
  • Declining Population: The main reasons why whale sharks are endangered are due to fishing and meat consumption. Whale sharks are especially targeted by fishermen because they are valuable prey. This hunting has led to a decline in their population size over the years.

India and Whale Sharks:

  • The whale shark is distributed all along the Indian coast.
  • The largest whale shark aggregation is along the Gujarat coast.
  • The fish is listed as a Schedule I animal under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.


Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) Project:

  • WTI has been running a project in Gujarat for the last 20 years which has resulted in fisher folk releasing 852 whale sharks in the Arabian Sea.
  • WTI with the support of IUCN had conducted a survey along the west coast (excluding Gujarat) during 2012-13 and found that the highest number of Whale Shark sightings (after Gujarat coast) were near the waters of Lakshadweep.
  • Whale shark landings and stranding are largely reported from Kerala.
  • Goal: 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.
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