NAGAPATTINAM: Officials have said they would sensitise fishers on the ecological importance of vulnerable animals after a whale shark died due to collective apathy near Nagore. The whale shark died in estuary waters close to Nagore Pattinacherry. Whale sharks are a vulnerable species under the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected under the Wildlife Act.
Officials admitted the news of its death was not communicated among fishers, the Fisheries department and Forest department even several hours after its mysterious landing. “We had occasionally been sensitising fishers about the ecological importance of marine animals like whales, whale sharks, turtles, clams, sawfish and sea cucumbers which they should not catch. We would provide more awareness on the subject and on actions to be taken if they capture them accidentally,” said a senior Fisheries department official.
The whale shark measured 10 metres in length and weighed around a tonne. It was alive for several hours. The public, media and school students thronged to Nagore to get a glimpse of the whale shark in its last hours, yet the news was not conveyed to officials. Officials are still investigating the role of fishers in bringing the creature to the dock, Some fishers are now absconding, according to sources. “We have initiated an investigation and trying to confirm how it was brought to the dock. We would take necessary legal action against fishers responsible if it is confirmed they brought it to shore,” said a senior Forest Department official.
The whale shark was pulled up the shore using earthmovers on Saturday. A team of veterinarians conducted a ‘necropsy’ (animal autopsy) and collected vital
tissue samples. A large pit of 10 metres in length and four metres in width and depth was dug using earthmovers and it was buried.
The lack of awareness does not end with the whale shark in the district with the longest coastline in TN. Olive Ridley turtles, another vulnerable species under IUCN and protected under the Wildlife Act, are another victim in the district. The turtles swim towards shores to lay their eggs. Many are killed after getting stuck in trawl nets which lack turtle excluder devices (TEDs) or being hit by boat propellers. Over 150 dead adult Olive Ridley turtles, each weighing about 50 kg, were washed ashore from December 2018 to March 2019.
“Lack of awareness among fishers is already jeopardising the existence of endangered species across Tamil Nadu. Intensive sensitisation should be provided to fishers by local officials more often,” said Dr Supraja Dharini, an activist for endangered marine animals.