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30 October 2000

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Plea to impose ban on whale shark killing

NEW DELHI: When schools of whale sharks visit the Gujarat coast this year between November and April, at least a thousand will not return to deep sea, but land up on dinner plates in South East Asian countries.

The fishermen of Gujarat slaughter between 800 to 1,000 whale sharks or rhineocodon typus every year in the most inhumane manner and export meat and fins to Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong where it is a sought-after delicacy, said Fahmeeda Hanfee, a senior researcher with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India (WWF-I).

Hanfee, who has been studying whale shark for the past three years with a grant from the Rufford Foundation, will be submitting the final report in November, recommending the government for imposing a complete ban on killing and trade of the largest mamal in the world. The species is not protected under the Wildlilfe Protection Act of 1972 nor by any other world body, added Hanfee.

Come November, whale sharks follow thousands of sardines, mackerels, skipjacks, bonitos and yellow fin tunas to the warmer coast of Gujarat.

The fishermen in Veraval and Okha ports, who have mastered the technique, harpoon the whale sharks, particularly the young ones between four to 12 metres weighing two to eight tonnes (maximum length of a full-grown whale is 18.3 m or 60 feet), and haul them for eight to ten hours. When the animal is exhausted, they tow it alongside the boat to the shore and cut into pieces some times even while it is alive in knee-deep water. (UNI)


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