Press releases


Marine conservation in Gujarat gets a boost, as Tata Chemicals, Wildlife Trust of India and Gujarat State Forest Department celebrate International Whale Shark Day

Gandhinagar: The capital of Gujarat today witnessed Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the Gujarat Forest Department and Tata Chemicals (TCL) come together to commemorate International Whale Shark Day and their success in protecting the whale shark since the launch of the conservation project in 2004. To further boost marine conservation in the state, project reports on the whale shark and coral reef were released that exhibited the development on the project over the past few years. Vivek Menon, executive director and CEO, WTI and R Mukundan, managing director, TCL, also signed a memorandum of understanding, firming the latter's continued support for marine conservation in Gujarat.

The event was held at the Forest Research and Training Complex in Gandhinagar in the presence of dignitaries, including Dr C N Pandey, PCCF and chief wildlife warden, Mr Menon, and Mr Mukundan. The chairperson for the event was Shri P K Taneja, additional chief secretary, IAS, Forests and Environment, Gujarat State and the chief guest was Shri Rajeeva, principal chief conservator, IFS, Forests, and head of the Forest Force, Gujarat State. More than 100 forest officials, school students, media personnel, members of the Gujarat fishing community and other guests were also present at the event. While various activities were organised for school children to help them learn more about this magnificent fish and the rainforests of the sea, presentations were also made by the institutions including Geer Foundation.

The Whale Shark Conservation Report and the Mithapur Coral Reef Recovery Report were released commemorating the event, in addition to posters on International Whale Shark Day and the Mithapur Coral Reef, all ventures of WTI in collaboration with the Forest Department and TCL.

"Such public-private collaborative projects facilitated by scientific organizations are the much needed inclusive management practice in the coastal and marine environment which are in the Common Property Rescue Regime and requires innovative co-management approaches," said Dr Pandey.

The whale shark (Rhincodontypus), the largest fish in the world, was hunted indiscriminately in the waters of the Arabian Sea of the coast of Gujarat, even though it has been afforded protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It was also brought under the Schedule 1 of CITES, affording it legal protection from international trade. The first phase of WTI's whale shark campaign brought this species to the forefront of conservation in Gujarat with the species now being called 'Vhali' or a friend instead of the barrel, the equipment the fishermen used to kill it. With the religious leader Morari Bapu lending his voice against the killing, the whale shark became an icon of conservation and pride.

Mr Menon said, "Perhaps along with Morari Bapu's campaign what has really worked in favour of the whale sharks is the self-documentation scheme which cut down the time taken to rescue the whale sharks caught in nets, thereby reducing the stress on the fish and subsequently increasing chances of survival in the wild, post-release. Marine conservation today is akin to clarion call for saving the forests of yesterday. It is the new frontier in conserving nature."

"Marine conservation in Gujarat has grown in leaps and bounds with each passing day. WTI and the Forest Department will have Tata Chemicals' sustained support as we strive to save our natural heritage and help communities to learn more about Whales Shark Conservation and Coral Reef projects through the release of our study reports. Over 421 whale sharks have been rescued till date and we are proud to achieve this milestone. Tata Chemicals is committed to the important issues of biodiversity and will continue to take steps forward in conserving nature and species in years to come," said Mr Mukundan,

In the first effort of its kind, the Gujarat Forest Department, WTI and TCL stepped forward to conserve the coral reef at Mithapur and initiated the 'Coral Recovery Programme' in 2008. Twenty two live coral fragments were transported from Lakshadweep by ship, train and road and transplanted in Mithapur in an experimental transportation and transplantation of extinct species 'Acroporahumilis' in Gujarat. This is the first time that a 1,200 kilometre long transplantation of corals took place in India. This live coral transportation attempt challenged the belief that corals are delicate and would not survive the long distance transportation.

"New species are being discovered practically every year by our team. We have been receiving generous support from TCL as well as administrative and logistic support from the Gujarat Forest Department and Gulf of Kutchh, Marine National Park Management which have been of a colossal help as our people venture into the still relatively unexplored coral reefs. Hopefully, our next effort at transplantation will be successful as we draw on our previous experience to help guide this attempt," said Dr B C Choudhury, Principal Investigator of the West Coast Marine Conservation Project.