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Whale shark population declined 63% in 75 years

Whale shark population declined 63% in 75 years

Gandhinagar: The population of whale sharks, one of the endangered migratory species, has declined by 63 per cent in last 75 years in the Indo-Pacific region, a nature conservation body has said while urging the government to intensify steps and train enforcement agencies to conserve the species.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said whale sharks, the largest living fish in the world, are vanishing from the face of the earth due to factors like climate change, rampant fishing and ocean pollution.

However, a senior official from the Union Environment ministry said efforts were on to revive the number of whale sharks and if needed, the government will spend around Rs 2-3 crores annually for its conservation.

Whale sharks have been classified as endangered in the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and are also called 'Gentle Giants' with maximum aggregation off the Gujarat coast.

Sajan John, marine expert from WTI, said these giants are mainly targeted for their meat but ocean pollution and warming were also affecting them.

"India needs to have a stronger dialogue with countries to protect this mega fauna which migrates from one country's coast to another and gets killed on the way.

"The population of these large and vulnerable aquatic animals which are deliberately targeted for meat, has declined by 63 per cent in the last over seven decades, also due to other factors like climate change, ocean pollution and fishing pressure," John said at the sidelines of The 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP 13) here.

WTI is working with the Gujarat government to rescue whale sharks which get stuck in fishing nets along its coast.

John said fishing of whale sharks is also done to collect and trade its fins.

"Though government has banned export of shark fins, illegally it is still being done," said the WTI official.

John also urged that the government should be proactive and intensify its steps to conserve the species.

"The enforcement agencies like Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Customs etc should be trained on how to identify protected species of sharks. Capacity building of the enforcement team is a major thing that needs to be strengthened," he said.

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