Monday, February 14, 2011

Slow Success in Gujarat - Distinct Whale Shark Population

If you have been watching the conservation push to protect and sustainably commercialize whale shark populations off the coast of Gujarat India, like we have, you can only be impressed with this regional effort.

Gujarat is a well known whale shark harvest site, with local fishermen in small boats who harpoon and net these animals, often reaping rewards of $80,000 rupee or close to $1800 USD per shark. In a location like Gujarat where the regional daily wage hovers at $3.00 the incentive to harvest whale sharks is extremely high.

Yet a small group of local NGO's with the help of India's Tata Chemicals have managed to change local views and redirect fishermen away from harvesting sharks for a promise of shark tourism efforts to come.

Sustainable shark tourism is the key to saving these animals.

Additionally the team rolled out a shark tagging and research effort that now suggests these animals are a distinct population. If you want to save a regional shark population this is the kind of news that drives conservation forward, aided by shark research.

With the titanic shark fishing disaster in Playa del Carmen this year, 22 dead bull sharks and counting, taken by local fishermen who were alerted to a shark aggregation site by local dive shops wanting to capitalize on shark tourism. Gujarat stands as a fine example of slow and steady site roll outs where fishing pressures and the chance to make money from sharks with a one time fishery can be changed and modified.

Worldwide the shark tourism model can be wildly successful, but only if tourism is countered with research and local behavior modification where regional fishing pressures only grow with demand, made more deadly each year by the modern equipment and methods that are driven by demand.


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