Somnath, November, 22, 2014:The much awaited Gujarat Whale Shark Day was celebrated with gusto in Somnath, Gujarat, on 22nd November. Nearly 600 children from 50 different schools, representatives from the fishing community along with officials from the Forest Department, Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL) and district administration were invited to be part of the celebrations held at the Sagardarshan Hall near Somnath Temple, Somnath. On this day, the Gujarati version of the Whale Shark Conservation Action Report was also released by the chief guest.
In February, 2007, the government of Gujarat had declared Kartik Amawas as the official ‘Whale shark day’ or ‘Vhali Utsav’ in view of the popular sentiment about the fish, generated by WTI’s successful whale shark campaign. WTI along with TCL and the Gujarat Forest Department started the campaign to make school children and the citizens of the state aware of the importance of whale shark and other forms of marine life.
This year Gujarat Whale Shark Day celebrations started with school children taking out a Whale Shark rally through Veraval. Later in the day, students from the coastal schools performed the ‘Vhali Song’ and Whale shark dance which was followed by speeches from the dignitaries present. Prizes were distributed to students who won in their respective activities and compensation cheques were handed over to fishermen who suffered losses by voluntarily cutting their nets in order to save the whale shark under the Self Documentation Scheme.
The Chief Guest of the event was C P Patel Collector (IAS), Gir-Somnath District while TCL was represented by Satish Trivedi, Senior Officer-Community Development. G Yaddayah IFS, CCF, Junagadh Division, represented the Forest Department and Sajan John, Head, Marine Project, WTI, was also present.
As a build up to the Gujarat Whale Shark Day, this year awareness campaigns were held in five coastal towns of the state. School children in Veraval, Sutrapada, Dhamlej, Mangrol and Mithapur-Dwarka participated in competitive activities like whale shark painting, rangoli and elocution along with a marine quiz. Moreover, awards were given to the winning students and fishermen for the best rescue of the year.
Formally launched in November 2008, the Whale Shark Conservation Project attempts to generate baseline data on the whale shark to aid its long-term conservation in India. A joint venture of the Gujarat Forest Department, TCL and WTI, the project activities involve scientific studies of whale sharks through photo-identification, genetic analysis and satellite tagging.