Ahmedabad: In what is being viewed as first sign of whale sharks finding a conducive environment for reproducing along the Gujarat coast, a sub-one metre pup of the largest fish species was recently caught in fishing nets.
Experts working on whale shark conservation are studying the phenomenon which indicates the giant fish swims all the way from Australian shores to Gujarat to reproduce.
The whale shark pup was found in the nets of a fishing trawler off Sutrapada coast in Junagadh district, around 300km from here, a few days ago. Mohan Beem Solanki, a fisherman, informed the Whale Shark Conservation Project.
After getting the information, the net was cut to rescue the pup, spokesperson of a Tata Group company, which is also involved with the conservation project, said.
The rescued whale shark was around 60cm long, which is the expected size of a month or two-month-old pup, he said.
The project, a joint venture of Gujarat Forest Department, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Tata Chemicals, has established a marine conservation centre to carry out research on the fish along Gujarat`s coast since 2008.
"We have been trying to understand the ecology, behaviour and migration of the whale sharks for quite some time," B C Choudhury, Senior Advisor at WTI, said.
"The recent rescue of whale shark pup is due to our campaign, in association with Tata Chemicals, which has been successful in creating awareness among local fishermen about this breed," he said in a statement.
"The sighting of a sub-metre whale shark is very rare. This particular pup, it looks like, was born this year. Its presence off the coast of Gujarat suggests that whale sharks are breeding in this area," said Rachel Graham, a member of Scientific Advisory Committee of the project.
"It`s exciting for us to notice the presence of a whale shark pup as this indicates that whale sharks feel at home and are comfortable breeding here on the shores on Gujarat," said Alka Talwar, Head of Community Development at Tata Chemicals, in a statement.
The conservation project, launched in 2004, advocates release of trapped whale sharks. As part of it, locals and fishermen are educated about the existence of the fish and its docile nature. Fishermen are compensated for the damage to nets since they are cut to release the trapped fish.
It has claimed to have saved over 350 whale sharks, locally known as `vhali`, in Saurashtra region.