Vhali Utsav celebrated by WTI and Gujarat Forest Department with support from TATA Chemicals


Mangrol, December 07, 2018 : “Whale Shark Day” or fondly known as “Vhali Utsav” was declared in February, 2007, by the Government of Gujarat to mark the efforts of conserving the gentle giant of the sea.

WTI and its partners the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) supported by Tata Chemicals Ltd, Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Ltd and the Gujarat Forest Department initiated the Whale Shark Campaign in the year 2004, to spread awareness among the fishing community in the state, on the endangered status of this fish.

This year, the Gujarat Whale Shark conservation project celebrated the day at Mangrol. Every year, the fishermen of Gujarat celebrate this day of pride for conserving Whale Shark fondly known as Vhali.

This year, the celebrations began with a school rally of around 300 students of Shree Parmesh Vidhyalay School, walking the streets of Mangrol banadar and shouting slogans with banners having the message of saving the whale shark. Inaugurated by the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Junagadh forest division and the president of Mangrol kharwa community, the rally was successful in reaching out to Mangrol’s fishing community. The rally ended at the community hall where the congregation of fishers and project stake holders were arranged.

The formal programme was congregated by dignitaries who are also vital stake holders of the project which, chaired by Dr. Sunil Borwal, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Junagadh forest division, and was joined by scientist from CMFRI, community leaders, district administrative officials, representatives from fisheries department and WTI.

The highlight of the entire event was a beautiful dance performance by students from Javahar Navoaya school of Kodinar dressed as whale shark that kept the mood upbeat. They staged the a play — ‘Vhali – re-vhali, whale shark amari’ — that had the audience hooked.

“Whale shark should not become dinosaurs who cannot be seen in real life. While dinosaurs died naturally, we could be the reason for whale shark’s disappearance. Our future generations should be able to see live whale shark swimming in the sea and not some fabricated structure kept in museums,” said Shri Veljibhai Masani, Chairman, GFCCA and also expressed gratitude to the tate forest department and TATA chemicals for an extraordinary support.

Talking about the technicalities of the project, Mr. Farukhkha Bloch, Sociologist, WTI stressed that credit for the immense success of the project goes to the fisher folk who have gone extra miles in protecting these gentle giants. He said, “In the coming years, we need to sustain for whale sharks conservation efforts driven under the Whale Shark conservation project so that it sets a precedent across the country on how one species can be saved as a joint effort. He informed the crowd that the success of Gujarat will now be replicated in other states on the West Coast. “Wherever we are going, we are telling the stakeholders that we want to adopt and implement the Gujarat model here. It should be a matter of great pride for all of you that this Gujarat model is being implemented in other parts of India.”

Mr. T. Kumavat, Scientist, CMFRI, Veraval embarked upon technical information on Sharks and their associates with special emphasis on Whale Shark biographical information and research work experiences.

In this collaboratively organized program by Wildlife Trust of India and Gujarat forest department with support from TATA Chemicals limited, the fishermen heads of Veraval & Mangrol handed over the formal application to the DCF with regard to net loss compensation and general resolution of forest department for documentation of Whale Shark rescue. At the end, Dr. Sunil Borwal, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Junagadh forest division said, “Conservation of life both on land and in water is of utmost importance because our future and livelihoods depend on it. If whale sharks cease to exist then the whole balance of nature would be disturbed. I would like to reiterate my point that without the support of the community, this would have not have been possible.” He also ensured to resolve the problems indicated by the fishers with respect to Whale Shark conservation efforts.