DNA profiling of Whale Sharks to begin soon in Gujarat

The DNA profiling of Whale Sharks frequenting the state`s coast will begin soon in Gujarat.

Ahmedabad: The DNA profiling of Whale Sharks frequenting Gujarat coast will begin soon as the state government has granted permission for the same, aiming to study the population and migration of this fish species.

The bio-technology division of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochi will conduct the profiling of sharks, visiting Gujarat coast seasonally in large numbers.

"The permission for conducting DNA profiling of Whale Sharks has been granted to the concerned agency," Principal Secretary Forest and Environment S K Nanda told PTI here.

"Also, the permission to collect samples for DNA profiling has been granted to a NGO--Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) by the Gujarat government last month on a pre-condition
that it will not harm the fish," a senior scientist at CMFRI Gulshad Mohammad said.

"DNA profiling will help keep us track of Whale Sharks visiting Gujarat coast and create a data bank of this largest living species of fish," he said.

"Once the samples are collected in the form of skin by WTI, it shall be sent to bio-technology division of CMFRI in Kochi for profiling," Mohammad said.

According to CMFRI Veraval (Gujarat), close to 110 sharks were netted by the state fishermen in 2009 and released later.

A Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) comprising scientists from India, Australia and United States, has been constituted for the research programme for the study of Whale
sharks in Gujarat.

"Why Whale sharks from Australia, Mexico and Republic of Madagascar are attracted to Gujarat coast is a subject of intrigue. Hence, in depth studies shall be done to understand
this phenomena," Mohammad said.

"The research study shall also cover analysis of water samples zoo plants (miniature plants) and other typical plant species found along the Gujarat coast," he said.
The programme includes areas of research like satellite tagging, genetics, photo identification and eco tourism. The programme will be jointly run by WTI, Gujarat Forest and Environment Department, and CMFRI Veraval region Centre.

For promotion of tourism, the state is planning to introduce an Australian concept here in which expert spotters and air planes will be used to locate whale sharks in the sea.
According to a state official, there are about 500 whale sharks in Indian waters and most of them are spotted largely off Gujarat coast.

The species is a Scheduled-I animal under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.