Veraval (Gujarat), Apr 30 (ANI):India has begun to contribute to global whale shark research, with marine researchers identifying the first off the Gujarat Coast.
The shark was labelled as I-001 and is India's first entry to the global database on whale sharks reported and identified from over 40 countries.
The global database is managed by the ECOCEAN.
Identifying the first individual is a very exciting moment for country's Whale Shark Conservation Project.
The identification process employed underwater photography and subsequent comparison of the photographs in a global database.
Pattern of spots around the pectoral fins and gills region is used to identify individual whale sharks.
The photo-identification exercise is a component of the Whale Shark Conservation Project - a joint venture of the Gujarat Forest Department, the Tata Chemicals Limited and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).
According to WTI, the projected aimed at studying the population and migration of whale sharks, the photo-identification is being implemented in collaboration with the ECOCEAN.
Gujarat Chief Wildlife Warden R V Asari expressed happiness over identifying of the whale shark.
"We are very excited about this development. It's no doubt a historic moment for India, for the state of Gujarat, for the people particularly the fishing community of the state, but more significantly for the conservation of this species in the country," Asari said.
Expressing excitement over the development TCL Community Development Chief, Alka Talwar said: "We have been involved in the 'Save the Whale Shark Campaign' since its very inception and are now supporting the research on this very beautiful species - the Gentle Giant - "Our Vhali".
"We hope that this first is a beginning that will lead us to identification on many more individuals and will help the international community join the dots for creating an indepth understanding about the whale sharks," Talwar added.
The underwater photographs were taken during a whale shark rescue operation carried out by a team of Gujarati fishermen, Forest officials and WTI biologists, on April 12.
According to WTI, the identified whale shark had been accidentally caught in a fishing net off the Veraval coast.
Continuing a trend initiated several years ago following the massively successful Save the Whale Shark Campaign, the local fishermen including the boat owner Nathalal Govind Mandvi, cut open their fishing net to release the fish.
WTI Coordinator Dhiresh Joshi said the whale shark photo-identification is being done in a lot of other countries, but this individual has not been recorded elsewhere.
"As the research progresses we will be trying to figure out if this individual as well as others that we encounter in the future, belong to a resident population or are migratory," Joshi said.
WTI Assistant Field Officer Manoj Matwal and Prakash Doriya took photographs.
"We have attempted underwater photography of whale sharks during several rescue operations since January this year. However, turbid waters affected clarity of the photographs. Fortunately, he water was sufficiently clear this time, and we were able to get the shots we needed," Matwal said. (ANI)