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Last Updated : Feb 19, 2020 08:12 PM IST | Source: PTI

Whale shark population declined by 63% in 75 yrs: Wildlife Trust of India

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said whale sharks, the largest living fish in the world, are vanishing from the face of the earth due to factors like climate change, rampant fishing and ocean pollution.

The population of whale sharks, one of the endangered migratory species, has declined by 63 per cent in last 75 years in the Indo-Pacific region, a nature conservation body has said while urging the government to intensify steps and train enforcement agencies to conserve the species.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said whale sharks, the largest living fish in the world, are vanishing from the face of the earth due to factors like climate change, rampant fishing and ocean pollution.

However, a senior official from the Union Environment ministry said efforts were on to revive the number of whale sharks and if needed, the government will spend around Rs 2-3 crores annually for its conservation.

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Whale sharks have been classified as endangered in the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and are also called 'Gentle Giants' with maximum aggregation off the Gujarat coast.

Sajan John, marine expert from WTI, said these giants are mainly targeted for their meat but ocean pollution and warming were also affecting them.

"India needs to have a stronger dialogue with countries to protect this mega fauna which migrates from one country's coast to another and gets killed on the way.

"The population of these large and vulnerable aquatic animals which are deliberately targeted for meat, has declined by 63 per cent in the last over seven decades, also due to other factors like climate change, ocean pollution and fishing pressure," John said at the sidelines of The 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP 13) here.

WTI is working with the Gujarat government to rescue whale sharks which get stuck in fishing nets along its coast.

John said fishing of whale sharks is also done to collect and trade its fins.

"Though government has banned export of shark fins, illegally it is still being done," said the WTI official.

John also urged that the government should be proactive and intensify its steps to conserve the species.

"The enforcement agencies like Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Customs etc should be trained on how to identify protected species of sharks. Capacity building of the enforcement team is a major thing that needs to be strengthened.

"Government needs to intensify the steps it is taking. Information dissemination in stages has to be ensured. People at ground level should also be aware of the importance of protected species," he said.

Soumitra Dasgupta, IG, Wildlife, Union Environment Ministry said, "Whale sharks have been under tremendous threat. Their population has seen a sharp decline but with the assistance of fishing community and WTI, revival work is going on.

"We know work is being done in Gujarat, but we don't have reports from other coastal states on their status. Presently we don't have a project to conserve whale sharks," Dasgupta told PTI.

Gujarat has the maximum density of whale shark population in the Indo-pacific region and between 2005 and 2019, over 700 whale sharks have been rescued in the state alone, the WTI said.

It said around 75 per cent of the global whale shark population occurs in the Indo-Pacific and 25 per cent in the Atlantic.

The CMS COP 13 kickstarted on February 17 with pre-COP meeting held on February 15 and 16 setting the agenda of India. The COP will conclude on February 22 with a Gandhinagar declaration.

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First Published on Feb 19, 2020 08:05 pm
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