International experts in Gujarat to Save the world’s largest fish

andhinagar, 14 March 2019: Mahatma Mandir at Gandhinagar will see an aggregation of experts on science, conservation and law enforcement forums from countries along the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. International and national delegates have converged to the maritime state of Gujarat for the first regional conference on Whale Sharks on 14th and 15th March.

The conference deliberations will enable the development of whale shark conservation action plans and management framework along the northern Indian Ocean region.

Although conservation initiatives to save whale sharks are operational in several countries along this region, they need to be strengthened across whale shark range states owing to a globally declining population of this circum-global species.

Whale shark conservation in India is spearheaded by the Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Tata Chemicals Ltd. and Forest Dept., Govt. of Gujarat since 2004. The project has converted the hunters of this iconic species into its protectors, thanks to a concerted campaign with Shri Morari Bapu as its influencer. Since the launch of the campaign, fishermen of Gujarat have saved more than 700 whale sharks that were been entangled in fishing nets in the 15 years.

The conference is supported by the Dept. of Forests, Govt. of Gujarat, Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL), Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC),, East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem (EGREE) Foundation, Mangrove Foundation, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Shri Akshay Kumar Saxena, Chief Wildlife Warden of Gujarat State said, ”the state of Gujarat is proud of its whale shark conservation model in which the fisherfolk who were once the hunters have now turned its protectors”.

Broad themes that will be discussed during the conference are Population status, habitat utilisation & distribution; Fisheries interface; Migration, genetics and techniques (field and lab); conservation threats; Community involvement, rescue and tourism; Cross-sectoral coordination; and Policy Intervention.

Prof. B C Choudhury, Executive Trustee and Principal Investigator of the project said, “Our conservation action on whale sharks has been based on a systematic scientific investigation of habitat utilisation and migration patterns of whale sharks in the Arabian Sea region and beyond.”

In its endeavour for good conservation science, the project consults a team of international experts on whale shark conservation and research who are present in this conference.