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Whale shark pup rescue indicates possible breeding in Gujarat

Veraval (Gujarat), May 6, 2013: A new-born whale shark pup recently freed by fishermen in Gujarat after being found caught in a fishing net, has indicated that the world’s largest fish may be breeding here.

The release was reported to the Whale Shark Conservation Project team by Mohan Beem Solanki, a local fisherman from Sutrapada. The Project, a joint venture of the Gujarat Forest Department, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL), has been carrying out research on the mighty fish along Gujarat coast since 2008.

Pup
Nets being cut to release the pup from the nets it was trapped in. Photos: WTI

“We have been trying to understand ecology, behaviour and migration of the whale sharks, after the successful whale shark campaign that convinced fishermen to release whale sharks caught in their nets,” said Prof BC Choudhury, Senior Advisor, WTI.

“Now these fishermen are actually helping us out in a number of ways. One is reporting such rescues, which itself gives us some valuable insights through circumstantial evidence. A pup being found could mean that the whale shark reproduces or gives birth here,” he said, adding that further research would provide scientific evidence.

Dr Rachel Graham, renowned whale shark expert and a member of the scientific advisory committee of the project, said, “The sighting or capture of a sub meter whale sharks is very rare. This particular pup looks like it was most likely born this year and this capture off the coast of Gujarat, further suggests that whale sharks are pupping in the area.”

The rescue took place at 8:30 am on April 18, around 20 km off the Sutrapada coast. The pup was around 60 cm long, which is the size a month or two-month old pup is expected to be. Whale sharks vary greatly in size when they are born, from the 33cm around the Philippines to about 55cm found in the Taiwanese water.

Pup

Fishermen captured the release of the pup on camera. Photos: WTI

WTI field officers Prem Jyoti, Farukhkha and Prakash Doriya, who interacted with the Sutrapada fishermen following the rescue, said that the fishermen had not seen a whale shark pup for over four decades.

Alka Talwar, Head of community development at Tata Chemicals said, “It’s exciting for us to notice the presence of a whale shark pup, as this indicates that whale sharks feel at home and are comfortable breeding here on the shores on Gujarat. The Tata Group has always been on the forefront, when it comes to caring for the environment and has endeavored to sensitise people by educating them about these endangered species. Tata Chemicals believes in improving the quality of life of the local community and at the same time maintaining bio-diversity standards. The sighting of the whale shark pup shows us that we are in the right direction of ensuring just that.”

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