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Whale shark tagged! Satellite tracking to commence soon

This is the first time the fish has been tagged. This tagging is expected to aid activists and researchers identify the fish if the same is caught again.

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For better comprehension of  fishy tales, particularly of how many whale sharks visit the Gujarat coast every season in winter, 'visual tag' has been put inside the dorsal fin of a whale shark captured off the coast of Veraval last week. This is the first time the fish has been tagged. This tagging is expected to aid activists and researchers identify the fish if the same is caught again.

After this process is repeated over, every whale shark that will be rescued on the coast will be tagged, and in the long run, this will provide an estimate of the population of the mammal on Gujarat's coast.

The shy whale shark, popularly known as Vhaali Whale by fishermen on the Saurashtra coast, often gets accidentally caught in fishing nets, especially in winter when the fishes are known to migrate to Arabian Sea from European shores. Dhiresh Joshi, WTI coordinator in Gujarat, told DNA that plans are underway to commence satellite tagging of the fishes too to track their annual movement, breeding habits etc.

"The visual tag is a small plastic tag, the size of a straw in length that is put on the fish. This is the conventional method of tagging used to identify the fishes. Of course, the satellite tracking will give a much deeper insight into fish's behaviour," Joshi said.

He added that a small tissue had been taken from the fish for genetic research on the mammal's breeding habits to ascertain whether this is endemic only to Gujarat or breeds with other species elsewhere.

Generally, around 700 whale sharks are estimated to do the rounds off the shores of Saurashtra especially in the winters from November to February. Marine biologists are struggling to understand whether the populace found is of an independent species that lives on the high seas, but comes closer to the shore for warmer waters only during winter or is it a migratory population that comes here from Europe or other parts of the world.

"Basically, there isn't enough clarity as to what these fishes do between February and November every year. We hope the satellite tagging will help us to understand their phenomenon in a better manner," a senior researcher said requesting anonymity.

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