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The Wildlife Trust of India extends its ‘Save The Whale Shark’ campaign to Lakshadweep.

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Collaborating with CIFNET, MPEDA, NETFISH, the Forest Department, and the Fisheries Department, a skill development training session for fishers was organized on Kiltan Island on February 26. During this session, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), in partnership with VST Industries, conducted an awareness program aimed at educating local fishers about the significance of the whale shark.

The main goal of this endeavor is to raise awareness among the fishing community, highlighting Lakshadweep’s importance as one of the largest whale shark aggregation sites. Through the ‘Save The Whale Shark’ campaign, WTI aims to foster a sense of stewardship among fishers to prevent incidents of whale shark fatalities caused by fishermen from neighboring Kerala.

The event, inaugurated by Dr. Sayed Ali and featuring a presidential address by Forester Jaseel, saw the participation of 70 committed fishers. Expanding its reach, the WTI team organized a sensitization event at Moola Beach on Androth Island, attracting an audience of over 600 individuals. The presence of a life-size whale shark mascot sparked engaging discussions and inquiries from islanders, indicating a growing interest in whale shark conservation efforts.

Similarly, the WTI team recently held an event at the Fisheries Office on Androth Island for key stakeholders from the Fisheries and Forest Departments and the fishing community. This was followed by a sensitization and interaction session with 650 students from Govt. Senior Basic School, Pandath, on Androth Island.

Sajan John, Marine Specialist at WTI, noted, “WTI, with the support of IUCN, conducted a survey along the west coast (excluding Gujarat) during 2012-13 and found that the highest number of Whale Shark sightings (after the Gujarat coast) were near the waters of Lakshadweep. Fishers from Kerala often venture into Lakshadweep waters for fishing, contributing to the high incidental landings.”

In 2017, WTI launched a Whale Shark conservation project along Kerala and Lakshadweep Islands with the support of Cochin Shipyard Ltd. The whale shark, the largest fish on Earth, can reach lengths of approximately 18 meters and weigh as much as 21 metric tonnes. Classified as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List and protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in India, this species requires concerted conservation efforts.

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