Sighting of a whale shark pup (the species’ newborn) off Gujarat coast has given environmentalists a big reason to cheer, for the event has proved the long-held belief that whale sharks come to the state’s coastline to breed.
The newborn was caught in the fishing net of Mohan Beem Solanki, a fisherman in Sutrapada area, and was later released by him. He then reported the incident to Whale Shark Conservation Project – a joint venture of Gujarat Forest Department, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL) – who have been researching about the mighty fish along Gujarat’s coastline since 2008.
“We’ve been trying to understand ecology, behaviour and migration of whale sharks, after a successful campaign convinced fishermen to release the whale sharks caught in their nets,” said Prof BC Choudhury, senior advisor with WTI.
“Though we believed that the fish come here to breed, we had nothing to prove it,” said Choudhury. “Almost all whale sharks trapped in the nets were large ones. There were small ones too, but none this small. This capture and the eventual release have confirmed that they come here to breed,” he added.
Dr Rachel Graham, a renowned whale shark expert and member of the scientific advisory committee of the project, said that the sighting or capture of a sub-metre whale shark in very rare. “This pup looks like it was born this year. Its capture of Gujarat’s coast suggests that whale sharks are ‘pupping’ (breeding) here,” said Graham.
The rescue of the pup took place at 8.30am on April 18, 20km off Sutrapada coast. It was about 60cm long, which is the size of a month or two old newborn.