Whale Shark Day celebrated in Porbandar

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Porbandar, Nov 27 (UNI) A large crowd today gathered at the Chowpatti Cricket Ground here to be a part of the annual ''Whale Shark Day'' celebration, jointly organised by Gujarat Forest Department, Tata Chemicals Limited, Wildlife Trust of India and International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Led by the campaign's flagship life-size whale shark inflatable mounted on a carmel card, about 1000 students dressed in symbolic whale shark coloured T-shirts and holding whale-shark campaign flags, rallied across Porbandar from Kirti Nagar to Chowpatti Cricket ground this morning.

The atmosphere on the ground resembled a fair with students, local fishermen, along with domestic as well as international marine experts participating to celebrate the existence and protection of whale sharks, asserting their support for its conservation.

The campaign was launched in January 2004 to spread awareness, educate and change perceptions about the world's largest fish among specific target groups in Gujarat. A decade ago on May 28, 2001, the whale shark was placed under schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972.

Within a year of its launch, the campaign successfully converted former whale shark hunters into its protectors, convincing them to voluntarily release accidentally trapped whale sharks from their fishing nets. The Gujarat government has taken initiative to compensate fishermen for the loss of their nets, which is almost unavoidable in such rescues. As many as 80 whale sharks have been released by the fisherfolk off the coast of Gujarat.

Based on the campaign's success, the Gujarat Forest Department, TCL and WTI-IFAW are now venturing into the scientific aspect of whale shark conservation in which, two Mous were signed last week in Ahmedabad. Supported by a Rs two crore fund by Tata Chemicals Limited, the research on whale shark science and coral reef conservation will be conducted by Wildlife Trust of India in support with the Gujarat Forest Department and technical expertise from National Institute of Ocanography and International marine experts.

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