Little is known about the behaviour of the endangered whale shark. In an attempt to bridge this gap, experts from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) have embarked on an ambitious satellite monitoring project of whale sharks found along the coast of Gujarat.
This is the second phase of WTI’s conservation project on this species. In the first phase, an awareness campaign was launched and fishermen who cut their nets to release the fish in case of accidental catch were compensated by the forest department. A small tag will be implanted on the dorsal fin of the fish to track and study its migratory patterns, breeding and other biological parameters such as growth, distribution and habitat requirements.
The lack of population-specific data has hampered conservation of the species. Late sexual maturity and slow breeding make whale sharks particularly vulnerable to overfishing and accidental killing by motors of trawlers. Despite the ban in their trade, the fish is killed for its fins, meat and liver oil. Hunting and illegal trade is widespread along the west coast.