Veraval (Gujarat): Marine conservationists in the western Indian state of Gujarat have obtained first underwater photographs of a whale shark in India, to be used in scientific study of the species.
The photographs were taken as part of the Whale Shark Conservation Project – a joint venture of the Gujarat Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) supported by the Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL).
“These photographs were taken off the Veraval coast. The whale shark was trapped in a net and was rescued by the fishermen as they have been doing for several years now. I waited in the water as the fishermen released the whale shark, and grabbed whatever shots I could,” said Manoj Matwal, Assistant Field Officer, WTI. “The photos weren’t that great, but we will definitely be able to get better pictures in the future. For our purpose, we need straight shots of the whale shark’s flanks, towards the gill region above the pectoral fins.”
Ideal photographs of the whale shark will be fed into a global database maintained by ECOCEAN. These photographs will then be used to study the population and migratory pattern of the species.
An individual whale shark will be identified by its pattern of spots, which remain constant in position even as the fish grows. Till date, ECOCEAN has the records of more than 2100 individual whale sharks from over 9800 sighting reports from 43 countries.
Using reports of sightings of an individual whale shark from different areas, the scientists also aim to establish the migratory pattern of the species.