Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and can grow up to 45 ft in length. This gentle giant was once brutally hunted off the Gujarat coast on western India. The widely-acclaimed WTI campaign "Save the Whale Shark" changed the perception and attitude of local people converting fishermen into protectors of the fish. These fishermen are now setting free whale sharks getting accidentally entangled their fishing nets by actually cutting open the meshes thus destroying the valuable net.
The Forest Department (FD) recognizes and rewards the fishermen who have sacrificed their fishing nets to set free a whale shark. But before they receive the reward, the FD has to arrive at the scene and confirm the incident with photographic evidence. For the whale shark, this often results in a prolonged time lapse sometimes up to four hours between getting trapped and being set free and this can be very stressful for the fish.
This project will distribute waterproof still cameras to the fishermen enabling them to self document the trapped whale shark and its release. In this way, the time lapse and thus stress to the fish is dramatically brought down. The photographs and nets are later handed over to the FD as proof of release of the trapped whale shark. 1100 cameras have already been distributed and 50 whale sharks have since been released within an hour of entrapment with the self-documentation process.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world and one of the rarer species. Indian law gives it the highest level of protection at par with the tiger and it is internationally protected by inclusion in Appendix II of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). The cameras will save the animal the stress of prolonged entrapment and also help speed up the process of recognition and reward, thus encouraging community participation in conservation.