Protecting Ocean's Gentle Giants

Published By : Admin | July 20, 2012 | 16:51 IST

 by Nitasha Nair

Somewhere in the middle of the ocean, a fishing trawler suddenly erupts with shouts about a big catch. A hurried phone call to the forest department soon follows and a rescue team comprising forest officials rush to the spot. Everyone laboriously tries to free the mammoth fish trapped in a fisherman's net, and the early morning drama ends with whoops of joy as the rescue team watches the Whale Shark swim away into the vast expanse of the sea unharmed.

This incident illustrates one of many whale shark rescues carried out on the western coast of India. Whale sharks once brutally hunted across the shores of Gujarat, now are revered and protected by the local community and fishermen. The credit for this sea change in the attitude goes to the whale shark conservation campaign. This widely acclaimed campaign spread awareness about the plight of the species and its protected status in Gujarat and helped convert fishermen into guardians of the fish.

Due to the high value of its meat, hunting of the whale shark was an important fishing activity in the Saurashtra coast and hundreds were killed annually. The demand was high not only for the fish meat but also for the valuable oil extracted from its fins and liver which was used for waterproofing boats. However, the scenario improved in 2001, when Whale Shark became the first fish species to be listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, classifying it as a species that has to be accorded the highest level of protection in the country. But simply listing the whale shark in the protection act was not enough to bring changes on the ground as fishermen stood to lose substantial sum of money, with one whale shark sometimes fetching over 1 lakh.

The solution came in the form of a collaborative effort taken by the Gujarat Forest Department, Wildlife Trust of India, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Tata Chemical ltd, local NGOs and individual nature lovers, leading to a campaign to protect whale sharks in the state.

The campaign not only generated awareness about the ban on killing whale sharks but also stood out due to its emotional appeal to the fishing community. The whale sharks were compared to daughters returning home to give birth, a strategy which worked effectively. In addition, the forest department enlisted the assistance of a spiritual leader to spread the message to local communities. The campaign convinced the fishermen that it is their duty to take care of the whale shark as their own daughters. The government also provided fishermen upto 25,000 as compensation for losses incurred due to nets getting damaged during rescue. The response to the campaign was overwhelming and the hunters soon became protectors.

The success of the campaign is reflected in numbers, till June 2012, about 286 Whale Sharks have been successfully rescued and total compensation of about 48 lakhs has been paid to fishermen. Due to the campaign, today the Whale Shark is a loved entity and people call it Vhali- the dear one.

Every year, a day is dedicated to the Whale Shark. 'Save the Whale Shark' festival is also organised to spread awareness amongst people, especially the fishing community. Many innovative steps have been taken to endear “Vhali” to the local community. The initiatives include launch of a special Whale Shark cover from the postal department of Gujarat in 2005, adoption of the Whale Shark as the official mascot by seven towns in Gujarat, Mangrol being the last to join the list. Lauding the project, H.S Singh, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Social Forestry), Gujarat says “This is an instance of a unique effort where conservation is taken from land to deep sea water. What makes it successful is the total change in attitude of the coastal community, where they have started considering the whale shark as their own. Such a transformation is unheard of in other countries.”

The forest department has not restricted itself to mere conservation efforts. Research on Whale Sharks is also an agenda among their initiatives. Aradhana Sahu, District Conservator of Forests, Junagarh, elaborates “Very little scientific knowledge is available currently on whale sharks in India. We are trying to understand their migration patterns, population, ecology and other behaviour which will help us in long term conservation of the species.”

With a slew of projects under pipeline like satellite tagging, photo identification, genetic analysis and Whale Shark tourism, the future looks secure for the Whale Shark.

 

 

Whale shark Fun facts

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean with an adult fish reaching lengths of around 12 metres or 40 feet. The sheer size of the whale shark has broken many records, including one of being the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, beating many of the largest dinosaurs in weight. But despite its gigantic size, whale sharks are oceans gentle giants, who are filter feeders, with a diet primarily consisting of plankton, algae, krill and small sea creatures.

Preferring tropical and warm oceans, whale sharks live in the open sea with a lifespan of about 70 years. They migrate from the coast of Australia and Mexico to give birth in the warmth of the Arabian Sea along the coast of Saurashtra-verval, Dwarka, Diu and Mangrol.

 

The article is originally published at The GUJARAT, Magazine

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PM to visit Gujarat on 24th and 25th February
February 24, 2024
PM to inaugurate dedicate to nation and lay the foundation stone of multiple development projects worth more than Rs. 52,250 crore
Projects encompasses important sectors like health, road, rail, energy, petroleum & natural gas, tourism among others
PM to dedicate Sudarshan Setu connecting Okha mainland and Beyt Dwarka
It is India’s longest cable stayed bridge
PM to dedicate five AIIMS at Rajkot, Bathinda, Raebareli, Kalyani and Mangalagiri
PM to lay the foundation stone and dedicate to the nation more than 200 Health Care Infrastructure Projects
PM to inaugurate and dedicate to the nation 21 projects of ESIC
PM to lay foundation stone of the New Mundra-Panipat pipeline project

Prime Minister will visit Gujarat on 24th and 25th February, 2024. On 25th February, at around 7:45 AM, Prime Minister will perform pooja and darshan at Beyt Dwarka temple. This will be followed by visit to the Sudarshan Setu at around 8:25 AM. He will thereafter visit Dwarkadhish Temple at around 9:30 AM.

At around 1 PM, Prime Minister will dedicate and lay the foundation stone of multiple development projects worth more than Rs. 4150 crore in Dwarka.

Thereafter, at around 3:30 PM, Prime Minister will visit AIIMS Rajkot. At around 4:30 PM, Prime Minister will inaugurate, dedicate to the nation and lay the foundation stone of multiple development projects worth more than Rs. 48,100 crore at Race Course Ground, Rajkot.

PM in Dwarka

At a public function in Dwarka, Prime Minister will dedicate to the nation, Sudarshan Setu connecting Okha mainland and Beyt Dwarka island built at a cost of around Rs. 980 crores. It is the longest Cable-stayed bridge in the country of around 2.32 Km.

Sudarshan Setu boasts a unique design, featuring a footpath adorned with verses from Shrimad Bhagavad Gita and images of Bhagwan Krishna on both sides. It also has solar panels installed on the upper portions of the footpath, generating one megawatt of electricity. This bridge will ease the transportation and significantly reduce the time of devotees travelling between Dwarka and Beyt-Dwarka. Before the bridge's construction, pilgrims had to rely on boat transport to reach Beyt Dwarka. This iconic bridge will also serve as a major tourist attraction of Devbhumi Dwarka.

Prime Minister will dedicate pipeline project at Vadinar involving replacement of existing offshore lines, abandoning existing Pipeline End Manifold (PLEM), and relocating the entire system (pipelines, the PLEMs and the interconnecting loop line) at a nearby new location. Prime Minister will dedicate Rajkot-Okha, Rajkot-Jetalsar-Somnath and Jetalsar-Wansjaliya Rail Electrification projects to the nation.

Prime Minister will lay foundation stone of widening of Dhoraji-Jamkandorna-Kalavad section of NH-927D; Regional Science Center at Jamnagar; Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) system installation at Sikka Thermal Power Station, Jamnagar among others

PM in Rajkot

At the public function in Rajkot, Prime Minister will inaugurate, dedicate to the nation and lay the foundation stone of multiple development projects worth more than Rs. 48,100 crore, encompassing important sectors like health, road, rail, energy, petroleum & natural gas, tourism among others.

In a significant step towards strengthening tertiary health care in the country, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation five All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Rajkot (Gujarat), Bathinda (Punjab), Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri (Andhra Pradesh).

Prime Minister will also lay the foundation stone and dedicate to the nation more than 200 Health Care Infrastructure Projects worth more than Rs. 11,500 crore across 23 States /UTs.

Prime Minister will dedicate the Medical College of JIPMER at Karaikal, Puducherry and 300 bedded Satellite Centre of Post Graduate Institute of Medical and Educational Research (PGIMER) in Sangrur, Punjab, among others. He will inaugurate 90 bedded Multi Specialty Consulting Unit of JIPMER at Yanam, Puducherry; National Centre for Aging in Chennai; new Government Medical College in Purnea, Bihar; 2 field units of ICMR namely, National Institute of Virology Kerala Unit, at Alappuzha, Kerala and National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT): New Composite TB Research Facility, Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, among others. Prime Minister will lay foundation stone of various health projects including 100 bedded Satellite Centre of PGIMER at Ferozpur, Punjab; new Medical College building in RML Hospital, Delhi; Critical Care Block in RIMS, Imphal; Nursing Colleges at Koderma and Dumka in Jharkhand, among others.

In addition to these, under the National Health Mission and Prime Minister-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM), Prime Minister will also inaugurate, dedicate to the nation and lay the foundation stone of 115 projects. These include 78 projects under PM-ABHIM (50 units of Critical Care Blocks, 15 units of Integrated Public health Labs, 13 units of Block Public Health Units); 30 units of various projects like Community Health Centre, Primary Health Care Center, Model Hospital, Transit Hostel etc. under National Health Mission among others.

Prime Minister will also inaugurate the National Institute of Naturopathy named ‘Nisarg Gram’ at Pune. It comprises Naturopathy Medical College along with 250 bedded hospital with Multi-disciplinary Research and Extension Centre. Further, he will also inaugurate the Regional Research Institute of Yoga & Naturopathy at Jhajjar, Haryana. It will have apex level Yoga and Naturopathy Research facilities

During the event, Prime Minister will inaugurate and dedicate to the nation 21 projects of the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), worth around Rs. 2280 crores. Projects being dedicated to nation include 2 medical colleges and hospitals at Patna (Bihar) and Alwar (Rajasthan); 8 hospitals at Korba (Chhattisgarh), Udaipur (Rajasthan), Adityapur (Jharkhand), Phulwari Sharif (Bihar), Tiruppur (Tamil Nadu), Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh) and Raigarh & Bhilai in Chhattisgarh; and 3 dispensaries at Neemrana, Abu Road, and Bhilwara in Rajasthan. ESI dispensaries at 8 locations will also be inaugurated at Alwar, Behror & Sitapura in Rajasthan, Selaqui (Uttarakhand), Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), Koratty & Navaikulam in Kerala and Pydibhimavaram (Andhra Pradesh).

In a step to boost production of renewable energy in the region, Prime Minister will lay foundation stone of various renewable energy projects including 300 MW Bhuj-II Solar power project; Grid Connected 600 MW Solar PV Power project; Khavda Solar Power Project; 200 MW Dayapur-II Wind Energy Project among others.

Prime Minister will also lay the foundation stone of the New Mundra- Panipat pipeline project worth over Rs. 9000 crore. The 1194 km long Mundra- Panipat Pipeline with an installed capacity of 8.4 MMTPA was commissioned to transport crude oil from Mundra on the Gujarat coast to Indian Oil's refinery at Panipat in Haryana.

Strengthening the road and rail infrastructure in the region, Prime Minister will dedicate doubling of Surendranagar- Rajkot Rail line; four laning of Bhavnagar- Talaja (Package-I) of old NH-8E; Pipli-Bhavnagar (Package-I) of NH-751. He will also lay the foundation stone of six laning with paved shoulder of Samakhiyali to Santalpur section of NH-27, among others.