Sutrapada (Gujarat), August 31, 2012: Taking Whale Shark conservation in the state of Gujarat to the next level, a “self documentation scheme” was launched last week to ensure minimum stress to whale sharks by speeding up rescue operations.
“The new protocol allows fishermen to document whale sharks caught in their nets using ‘tamper proof’ cameras, and claim compensation,” says Aradhana Sahu, DCF, Junagadh Division.. “The whale sharks can thus be released without delay by the fishermen themselves.”
The earlier protocol required the fishermen to call a rescue team to release the trapped whale sharks, prolonging the stress caused to the fish.
The Rapid Action Project funded scheme, supported by the David Shephard Wildlife Foundation is part of the Whale Shark Conservation Project, an initiative of the Gujarat Forest Department, Tata Chemicals Ltd and the Wildlife Trust of India.
“This has been one of the most satisfying weeks of my life,” says Manoj Matwal from the Wildlife Trust of India, who has been working on this project for more than two years. “With the support of students from Chokshi College and Fisheries College, we presented the new scheme and rescue protocol to the fishing community in the form of a street play. Fortunately, we had the support of the community heads and were successful in convincing the people on the importance and benefits of this scheme.”
The scheme was launched in Sutrapada on August 24, and subsequently showcased in Dhamlej on August 29. Cameras for self documentation were distributed to fishermen, who contributed a sum of Rs 100 each which shall be used for the purchase of more cameras and film reels etc.
“ We at Tata Chemicals are very pleased that the project is progressing well and is able to take along all the relevant stakeholders," says Alka Talwar, Head - CD, Tata Chemicals Ltd. "A process like self documentation will bring greater buy-in from the fishing community, who is a very important key stakeholder of this program. We look forward to seeing many more Whale Shark Individuals identified and tagged by this process.”
The team will also be executing a ‘training the trainers’ programme this week, an initiative of the college volunteers. Through this exercise, the volunteers are identifying a few fishermen from each community and giving them in-depth training on the new protocol and camera functions. They will then serve as trainers, imparting this knowledge to the rest of their community.