Video shows endangered whale shark ‘caught, sold’ in Odisha, probe on
Officials in Odisha are investigating whether a whale shark, protected under Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act and caught by fishermen in the coastal state was sold for about Rs 8 lakh, as reported in the local media on Thursday.
A day earlier, a video clip of a whale shark being held captive aboard a sailing vessel by fishermen had gone viral. It was reportedly caught near the Dhamra fishing jetty in the state’s Bhadrak district and is seen alive on the video. It was reportedly sold for Rs 7.49 lakh to either a businessman or a pharmaceuticals firm based in Chennai.
Additional director of fisheries(marine) in Bhadrak, Chitta Ranjan Sahu on Thursday said he was verifying the authenticity of the video. “We are told that the video could be more than two weeks old. Our people spoke to the fisherman who reportedly caught the whale shark, but he denies selling it to anyone and claims he released it back into sea,” said Sahu.
Bhadrak SP, Rajesh Pandit, said he is also verifying into the incident.
Once brutally hunted, whale sharks are now protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which is considered the highest level of protection. The whale shark is the largest extant species of non-mammalian vertebrates. It inhabits warm oceans like the Bay of Bengal and can grow up to a length of 62 feet. It feeds on smaller fish and is harmless to humans.
“There have been several other varieties of sharks caught in Odisha over the years but apart from one case lodged by the forest department in 2001, we have not had another case of a whale shark so far,” says Biswajit Mohanty of the Wildlife Society of Odisha, which in 2001 launched a campaign to save sharks.
The conservationist says that about 10 to 12 shark varieties that are protected by law, do get caught routinely by fisherman. “Shark fins carry a high price tag on international markets,” he said.
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