Movement of whale sharks to be tracked via satellites
Deccan Chronicle.| dc correspondent
These sharks, protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are seen along the AP coast with varying frequencies
Fishermen pushing back a 22-foot whale shark into the sea during a rescue operation in the presence of forest department officials at Tantadi village coast in Visakhapatnam. The whale shark was accidentally entangled in a fishing net during shoreline fishing by the local fishermen. (Photo by arrangement)
Vishakhapatanam: Climate change and its impact on marine environment have resulted in changes in the distribution, number and seasonality of plankton that the whale sharks, the largest fish, feed on.
The erratic distribution of plankton could be a reason why these giant fish were coming close to the shore, according to Mukta Menon, scientist at the Vizag-based Central Marine Fish Research Institute.
Talking to Deccan Chronicle on Wednesday, she said these sharks being filter-feeders depend on microscopic plankton in the sea. The whale shark Rhincodon typus is the largest fish on earth. It is an epipelagic, planktivore fish with late maturation and low number of pups.
These sharks, protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are seen along the AP coast with varying frequencies.
Prof Shiv Kumar, who teaches Ecology at Pondicherry University, said of late the whale sharks are active along the East Coast. A number of sharks washed ashore there, either having got entangled in nets or been hit by propellers. Unlike sea mammals, these sharks do not have navigation systems or memory.
Kumar, who had worked as a scientist with Wildlife Institute of India, proposed maritime states to do satellite tracking of these sharks in order to conserve these endangered species.
"Gujarat has an excellent model in marine conservation and Odisha in protecting Olive Ridley turtles. Maharashtra and Karnakata have conservation programmes and Tamil Naidu has formed a Marine Elite Force,’’ he said.
Mukta said that in Andhra Pradesh, whale sharks get accidentally entangled in fishing gears like gillnets, trawls and hooks & lines. Earlier, fishermen were not very aware of the protection being accorded to whale sharks. However, with awareness campaigns across the coastal districts, fishermen are now aware of the need to protect these charismatic marine fauna.
"In fact, they are very proactive in recording themselves releasing these sharks alive back into the sea and posting these videos across social media platforms,’’ she said.