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No mercy for whale shark pups at Neendakara

 An alarming loss of the IUCN red-listed whale shark (Rhincodon typus) population is taking place along the Kerala waters. The largest extant fish species, the whale shark is protected in India under Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, a protection status on a par with tiger. Seafood agents at the Neendakara fishing harbour in Kollam say since April at least one whale shark pup is being sold daily at the auction hall here. There are days when three or four pups are sold. On Wednesday, four pups came for auction.

A pup fetches between Rs.3,000 and Rs.5,000 depending on its size. Whale sharks do not find much of a place on the domestic menu and have not been listed on the export figures of the Marine Products Export Development Authority. But in the export market, liver oil, meat, cartilage, and skin of this species have commercial value. The products are exported on the sly to China, Taiwan, and the Philippines via Sri Lanka. The landings rise between April and June as whale sharks undertake pre-monsoon migration through the Kerala waters.

 

Though whale shark hunting is not an active fishing activity in India, those accidently getting caught, both adults and pups are not released. When big sharks get entangled, nets, which are very costly, are completely destroyed. Fishermen haul the catch ashore and sell it at the auction hall to compensate for the loss. They claim if they release the shark, they lose that money as well as their net. Gujarat is the only State that provides compensation to the fishermen for nets that suffer damage when whale sharks are accidently caught.

 

The Gujarat government pays a compensation of Rs.25,000 to the fishermen if the whale shark getting entangled in the net is released. Environment activists do not entertain arguments of the fishermen in the case of whale shark pups. They say when the pups get entangled, there is not much of destruction to the nets. Yet, the pups are not released and brought ashore.

 

 Hindu, Delhi, Thursday 29th May 2014