Whale shark found cut into pieces for sale; 2 detainedUpdated: Aug 13, 2020 00:05 IST
The carcass of a 20-foot-long dead female whale shark was caught by a fishing boat which was brought to Sassoon Dock in Colaba, on Wednesday morning. The shark was cut into pieces in an attempt to sell the protected species to a distributor. Two people have been detained in the matter and further investigation is underway by the fisheries and forest department.
Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972, and listed as ‘endangered’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are the largest species of any fish that can reach a maximum length of 40-feet.
On Wednesday morning, Sassoon Dock fishers informed the police about the presence of the whale shark, forest officers said. “The fishermen who caught the protected species left it at the dock and fled, but as we were reaching the site for further investigation, a trader cut up the 20-foot marine animal into pieces, and intended to sell it,” said Suresh Warak, range forest officer (mangrove cell).
“By the time we reached the site, the trader had fled, but we managed to detain the buyer, Jan Bahadur Yadav, 50, and tempo driver, Sham Rajaram Dhar, 35, under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Based on their statements, arrests will be made and they will be presented before a district court on Thursday,” said Warak.
Warak said a punchnama had been filed. “Interrogations are underway to identify the trader responsible for desecrating the shark, and further course of action will be taken including arrests for offences under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972,” he said.
Meanwhile, the fisheries department said they were investigating the boat responsible for catching the whale shark. “With help from Mumbai Port Trust, we have got a list of boats that arrived at Sassoon Dock on Wednesday for landings, and have identified a few that could be responsible for this incident,” said Sanjay Wategaonkar, assistant commissioner of fisheries. “They have already been informed to report to us at the earliest. On completing our investigations, we will hand over our findings to the mangrove cell for further action. In the meantime, we will be cancelling the license of the boat under the Maharashtra Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1981, responsible for this.”
The incident comes eight days after the fisheries department initiated an investigation and called for action regarding unauthorised fishing practices affecting rare and endangered marine species along Maharashtra. “An incident like this has not happened along the Mumbai coast wherein the body parts are cut up. The fishing community treats the whale shark as a god and are also aware that they are entitled to a compensation of up to Rs. 25,000 for safe rescue of protected marine species,” said Rajendra Jadhav, joint commissioner (fisheries).
The remains of the shark were transported to Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli on Wednesday evening. “We will try to conduct a post mortem and the remains will be buried on Thursday after completing all formalities since it is a serious offence case,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (mangrove cell).
Recent report warned about unsustainable fishing practices
Marine biologists from the Mangrove Foundation, under the state mangrove cell, had recently documented unsustainable fishing practices, excessive juvenile bycatch and illegal shark fin trade across seven landing centres along the state’s coastline including Sassoon Dock. They found that rampant fishing practices were leading to a rapid decline of threatened, vulnerable, and critically endangered sharks and allied species, the report had pointed out. Besides whale sharks, tiger sharks, white sharks, and speartooth sharks; other elasmobranch species such as hammerhead sharks, pointed sawfish, largetooth sawfish, longcomb sawfish, and guitarfish are also protected under the WPA, 1972.