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Recent Pup Rescue Bolsters the Proposition that Gujarat Coastal Waters May be Whale Shark Breeding Grounds

Sutrapada, Gujarat, February 22, 2017:
A neonatal whale shark was rescued by a local fisherman in the coastal waters off the fishing village of Sutrapada on the morning of February 18. This self-documented rescue was the fifth encounter with whale shark pups recorded off the Gujarat coast under the Whale Shark Conservation Project, run by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Gujarat Forest Department with support from Tata Chemicals Ltd. The first four documented encounters – three live pups and one dead – had all occurred in 2013.

Most records of neonatal free-swimming whale sharks are from open ocean habitats and given the limited swimming abilities of these pups, researchers speculate that they may have been born close to where they were captured. The recorded presence of neonatal whale sharks (size range 50-100 cm) in the Gujarat coastal waters is significant, therefore, in that it supports the proposition that the Arabian Sea may be a breeding territory for whale sharks.

The neonatal whale shark after it was disentangled from Mahnedrabhai's net

The pup encounter of February 18 was discovered following a community-based survey, conducted by the WTI project team through the distribution of postcards, on opportunistic sightings of neonatal whale sharks along the Gujarat coast. Mahendrabhai Kanjibhai Talvariya, the fisherman who effected the rescue, had captured photographic and video evidence of the encounter on his mobile phone.

Mahendrabhai has been fishing in these waters for 20 years and has rescued five whale sharks. This, he said, was his first encounter with a pup. The rescue happened at 9.30am in the open sea northwest of the Sutrapada bandar, at a water depth of approximately 30m. The neonatal whale shark (50cm long), which had become entangled in Mahendrabhai’s nylon gill net, was rescued as per established protocol and carefully placed back into the water, whereupon it actively swam away. This is the second video documentation of a pup rescue under the Whale Shark Conservation Project.

GPS Location of the recent neonatal whale shark rescue

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