MOU signed for conservation of shark, coral research

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Ahmedabad, Nov 17 (UNI) In a bid to conserve the whale sharks, whose numbers are dwindling, and the beautiful coral reef, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Tata Chemicals Limited, National Institute of Oceanography and Gujarat Forest Department today inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU)to set up a research centre for marine conservation.

Speaking on the occasion here, Managing Director of Tata Chemicals Homi Khusrokhan said, ''This initiative, funded by Tata Chemicals with a corpus of Rs two crore, is our first step in taking the conservation efforts to a cause that is important globally and to understand through scientific research this rare species of fish.'' Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment, S K Nanda said that it is the beginning of a major conservation initiative with Public Private Partnership. ''Gujarat has a tradition of conservation and it is apt that various sections of the socieity formalite the arrangement for greater success,'' Dr Nanda said.

He said that the Saurashtra coast is a preferred destination of the whale sharks because of its ecological health and it has been visiting the region unabated since ages. ''Now that the protection is formally extended, the whale shark will find it friendlier,'' Dr Nanda said, adding, ''I am sure that the research inputs will pave way for whale shark tourism, extending benefits to local people.'' Meanwhile, Vivek Menon, Executive Director, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), said the whale shark campaign, started in the year 2004 with the participation of the Gujarat Forest Department, WTI, Tata Chemicals and coast guard to spread awareness about the world's largest animal, has yielded good results, with more than 80 trapped whale sharks being voluntarily released by fishermen since the start of the campaign.

''The Forest Department has also declared Kartik Amas as Gujarat's Whale Shark Day, an honour no other species, not even the tiger, has in this country. This year, the Whale Shark Day (Vhali Divas) is being celebrated on November 27 in Porbandar,'' Mr Menon added.

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