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Whale shark entangled in nets, dragged ashore

By Our Staff Reporter



A whale-shark caught by fishermen in the sea off Thiruvanmiyur on Thursday.

CHENNAI, OCT. 14. A whale shark entangled in fishing nets died after it was dragged ashore off Tiruvanmiyur beach here this morning.

The dead male shark (biological name Rhincodon typus ) was 4.5 metres long and weighed about a tonne. "It is a unique species. Unlike other sharks, they are not hunters. They do not attack other animals or human beings," according to K. Venkataraman, Member Secretary, National Bio-Diversity Authority, who inspected the carcass.

Chennai Wildlife Warden K.S.S.V.P. Reddy said local fishermen wanted to chop the carcass and sell its fins, liver and other organs for money. However, the Wildlife authorities warned them against it. They also told them not to drag whale sharks to the shore even if they were entangled in their nets. The carcass was buried in a 10-foot deep pit using a crane.

Black in colour at the dorsal region, the fish had white spots and stripes all over its body. While feeding, the tail fin juts out of the water. Using its three-foot wide mouth, the fish collects its feed, planktons, and releases water the gills, which are used for breathing. They are not air breathers.

In 2001, whale sharks were brought under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. They are mostly found in the west coast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is the dream of every deep sea diver to see a whale shark, says Dr. Venkataraman, who is also a master scuba diver.

No studies have been taken up so far on their habitat, reproduction habits, parental care and population size, as they are rare species. Except gut content studies, no information is available about this world's largest marine fish. Their population in the wild is steadily declining due to illegal hunting and their low reproduction rate. Disappearance of this species will affect the marine eco-system and result in the breaking of the food chain, zoologists and marine biologists say.

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