Cochin, January 1, 2018: As the 40-foot inflatable whale shark traversed the two-kilometre stretch from Veli Ground to Parade Ground in Fort Kochi, it provoked a palpable a sense of awe and wonder among the nearly two lakh people who had gathered for the New Year rally that marks the close of the annual Cochin Carnival.
This was the first time that a ‘save the species’ campaign was participating in the Cochin Carnival rally, which was flagged off by Member of Parliament Prof KV Tomas and Cochin Mayor Soumini Jain. Balloons and sun visors were also distributed among the gathered crowds to emphasise the message of whale shark conservation. The whale shark’s presence at the rally was part of a massive ongoing awareness campaign being conducted by WTI and Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), targeted at coastal communities and aimed at securing a safer future for whale sharks off the coasts of Kerala and Lakshadweep.
This was the first time that a ‘save the species’ campaign was participating in the Cochin Carnival rally
Whale sharks, the gentle giants of the sea, are found all along the coast of India and, since 2001, have been legally protected under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 – the first fish species in the country to be accorded this highest level of protection. They are found in Kerala and Lakshadweep waters and face serious threats here, as they do elsewhere, due to the degradation of the marine ecosystem by factors such as pollution, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices.
WTI’s award-winning Whale Shark Conservation Project has been highly successful in changing the mindsets of fishing communities on the Gujarat coast. On August 30 last year, on the occasion of International Whale Shark Day, WTI had announced that it was partnering with CSL to bring the project to Kerala and Lakshwadeep.