Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 713–722 | Cite as

Landings of whale sharks Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828 in Indian waters since protection in 2001 through the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

  • K. V. AkhileshEmail author
  • C. P. R. Shanis
  • W. T. White
  • H. Manjebrayakath
  • K. K. Bineesh
  • U. Ganga
  • E. M. Abdussamad
  • A. Gopalakrishnan
  • N. G. K. Pillai


Since 28th May 2001, Whale shark Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828 have received the highest protected status for an animal in India through the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 Schedule-1. However, landings have still been recorded off the Indian coast since 2001, mostly as incidental bycatch in commercial fishing operations, and other sightings have also been reported. In the 1990’s, a targeted whale shark fishery existed off the Gujarat coast following increased demand for the flesh in some other Asian countries. Since the ban, landings of whale sharks have decreased substantially with only 79 recorded between 2001 and 2011. Landings were recorded in each year and in each month of the year with the highest landings in January and February. Between 2001 and 2011, the smallest specimen reported from Indian waters was a 94 cm TL individual and the largest was a 13.7 m TL individual, with most individuals recorded in the 4–6 m TL size class. Small juveniles of less than 3 m TL are rarely recorded in the literature and appear to be rarely observed globally. Between 2006 and 2011, seven juveniles of less than 3 m TL were recorded from two landing sites. Despite the continued landing of whale sharks along the Indian coasts since 2001, the protection of this species appears to have substantially reduced the catches with only incidental landings and strandings now evident. The protection status of whale sharks in India is generally well understood by fishers, but still there is need for further education regarding the current national legislation and vulnerability of the species.


India Whale shark Rhincodon typus Landings Strandings Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 



Authors wish to thank G. Syda Rao, Director, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochi for the facilities provided. Financial support from Ministry of Earth Sciences/Central Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), Government of India is acknowledged. E. Vivekanandan (CMFRI) is acknowledged for the constant support for all our discussions. Dhiresh Joshi (Wildlife Trust of India); Society for Marine Research and Conservation (SMRC), Kochi; Jafer Hisham (Lakshadweep Marine Research and Conservation Centre (LMRCC)); Prajith K. K and Ragesh V.B (CUSAT), Vinu Jacob (CMLRE), Aneesh KKV and Sreejith P.T (CIFT) and Muktha M, KSSM Yousuf and Ragesh N (CMFRI) are acknowledged for the support extended. Prakasan D, Mani P.T. and Sijo Paul (CMFRI) are acknowledged for their assistance in field trips. Thanks also to Gensen Rozario Victor and Diana Benjamin (CUSAT) for the field support and photographs. We are grateful to all those who have responded to our queries and supported the work. We would also like to thank the valuable comments of anonymous reviewers and the journal editor for their critical suggestions which helped improve the manuscript.


  1. Aca EQ, Schmidt JV (2011) Revised size limit for viability in the wild: neonatal and young of the year whale sharks identified in the Philippines. Asia Life Sciences 20:361–367Google Scholar
  2. Anderson RC, Ahmed H (1993) The shark fisheries of the Maldives. Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Republic of Maldives, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 74 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckley LE, Cliff GM, Smale MJ, Compagno LJV (1997) Recent strandings and sightings of whale sharks in South Africa. Environ Biol Fish 50:343–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borrell A, Aguilar A, Gazo M, Kumarran RP, Cardona L (2011) Stable isotope profiles in whale shark (Rhincodon typus) suggest segregation and dissimilarities in the diet depending on sex and size. Environ Biol Fish 92:559–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chacko PI, Mathew MJ (1954) A record of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus Smith) from the Malabar Coast. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 52:623–624Google Scholar
  6. Chen CT, Liu KM, Joung SJ (1997) Preliminary report on Taiwan’s whale shark fishery. TRAFFIC Bulletin 17(1):53–57Google Scholar
  7. Choudhary RG, Joshi D, Mookerjee A, Talwar V, Menon V (2008) Turning the Tide—the campaign to save Vhali, the whale shark in Gujarat. Wildlife Trust of India.14 ppGoogle Scholar
  8. Cliff G, Anderson-Reade MD, Aitken AP, Charter GE, Peddemors VM (2007) Aerial census of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) on the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast, South Africa. Fish Res 84:41–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Colman JG (1997) A review of the biology and ecology of the whale shark. J Fish Biol 51:1219–1234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Compagno LJV (2002) Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). FAO, Rome, 269 ppGoogle Scholar
  11. Compagno LJV, Dando M, Fowler S (2005) A field guide to sharks of the world. Harper Collins Publishing Ltd., London, 368 ppGoogle Scholar
  12. de la Parra Venegas R, Hueter R, González Cano J, Tyminski J, Gregorio Remolina J et al (2011) An unprecedented aggregation of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, in Mexican coastal waters of the Caribbean Sea. PLoS ONE 6(4):e18994PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fowler S (2000) Whale shark Rhincodon typus policy and research scoping study. Nature Conservation Bureau, NewburyGoogle Scholar
  14. Gopakumar G, Ajith-Kumar TT, Krishnapriyan M (2003) Juvenile whale shark, Rhinocodon typus (Smith) caught at Vizhinjam. Marine Fisheries Information Service, Technical and Extension Series, 175 p 11Google Scholar
  15. Graham RT (2007) Whale sharks of the Western Caribbean: an overview of current research and conservation efforts and future needs for effective management of the species. Gulf Caribb Res 19:149–159Google Scholar
  16. Hanfee F (2001) Gentle giants of the Sea, TRAFFIC India, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  17. Haq SM, Khan JA, Chugti S (1973) The distribution of zooplankton along the post monsoon and premonsoon periods. In: Zeitzschel B (ed) The biology of the Indian Ocean. Springer Verlag, Berlin, pp 257–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. John S (2010) Observation of a whale shark Rhincodon typus (Orectolobiformes: Rhincodontidae) in the offshore waters of Rushikulya, Orissa, India. J Threatened Taxa 2:896–897Google Scholar
  19. Joung SJ, Chen CT, Clark E, Uchida S, Huang WYP (1996) The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a livebearer: 300 embryos found in one ‘megamamma’ supreme. Environ Biol Fish 46:219–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kaikini AS, Rao VR, Dhulkhed MH (1959) A note on the whale shark Rhincodon typus Smith, stranded off Mangalore. J Mar Biol Assoc India 4:92–93Google Scholar
  21. Karbhari JP, Josekutty CJ (1986) On the largest whale shark Rhincodon typus Smith landed alive at Cuffe Parade, Bombay. Mar Fish Inf Serv Tech Ext Ser 66:31–35Google Scholar
  22. Kasinathan C, Sukumaran S, Ramamoorthy N, Balachandran K, Mandapam RC (2006) Whale shark, Rhincodon typus landed at Mandapam, Gulf of Mannar. Mar Fish Inf Serv Tech Ext Ser 187:21Google Scholar
  23. Krishna-Pillai S (1998) On a whale shark Rhinodon typus found accompanied by its young. Mar Fish Inf Serv 152:15Google Scholar
  24. Kulkarni CV (1948) Outsize whale shark in Bombay waters. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 47:762–763Google Scholar
  25. Kumari B, Raman M (2010) Whale shark habitat assessments in the northeastern Arabian Sea using satellite remote sensing. Int J Remote Sens 31:379–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kuthalingam MDK, Luther G, Livingston P, Murty VS (1973) Further occurrences of the whale shark, Rhincodon typus Smith in the Indian coastal waters. Indian J Fish 20:646–651Google Scholar
  27. Manojkumar PP (2003) An account on the smallest whale shark, Rhincodon typus (Smith 1828). Mar Fish Inf Serv Tech Ext Ser 176:9–10Google Scholar
  28. Norman B (2005) Rhincodon typus. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN red list of threatened species. Version 2010.4. ( Downloaded on 28 January 2011
  29. Pai MV, Nandakumar G, Telang KY (1983) On a whale shark Rhineodon typus Smith landed at Karwar, Karnataka. Indian J Fish 30:157–160Google Scholar
  30. Paulinose VT, Aravindakshan PN (1977) Zooplankton biomass, abundance and distribution in the north and northeastern Arabian Sea. Proceedings of the symposium on warm water zooplankton. National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, pp 132–136Google Scholar
  31. Pillai RS (1929) List of fishes taken in Travancore from 1901–1915. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 33:347–379Google Scholar
  32. Pine R, Alava MNR, Yaptinchay AA (2007) Challenges and lessons learned in setting-up a community-based whale shark eco-tourism program: The case in Donsol, Philippines. In: Irvine TR, Keesing JK (eds) The First International Whale Shark Conference: Promoting International Collaboration in Whale Shark Conservation, Science and Management. Conference Overview, Abstracts and Supplementary Proceedings. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Australia, pp 36–44Google Scholar
  33. Prater SH (1941) The whale shark (Rhineodon typus Smith) in Indian Coastal waters. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 42:255–279Google Scholar
  34. Pravin P (2000) Whale shark in the Indian coast—need for conservation. Curr Sci 79:310–315Google Scholar
  35. Pravin P, Remesan MP, Solanki KK (2004) Commercial fishing of whale sharks (Rhyncodon typus Smith) in Gujarat. In: Somvanshi VS (ed) Large marine ecosystem: exploration and exploitation for sustainable development and conservation of fish. Fishery Survey of India, Mumbai, pp 312–318Google Scholar
  36. Rao GS (1986) Note on the occurrence of the whale shark Rhincodon typus Smith off Veraval coast. Mar Fish Inf Serv Tech Ext Ser 66:30Google Scholar
  37. Riley MJ, Harman A, Rees RG (2009) Evidence of continued hunting of whale sharks Rhincodon typus in the Maldives. Environ Biol Fish 86:371–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Riley MJ, Hale MS, Harman A, Rees RG (2010) Analysis of whale shark Rhincodon typus aggregations near South Ari Atoll, Maldives Archipelago. Aquat Biol 8:145–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Romanov EV (2002) Bycatch in the tuna purse-seine fisheries of the western Indian Ocean. Fish Bull 100:90–105Google Scholar
  40. Rowat D (2007) Occurrence of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) in the Indian Ocean: a case for regional conservation. Fish Res 84:96–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rowat D (2010) Whale sharks—an introduction to the world’s largest fish from one of the world’s smallest nations, the Seychelles. Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, VictoriaGoogle Scholar
  42. Rowat D, Meekan MG, Engelhardt U, Pardigon B, Vely M (2006) Aggregations of juvenile whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti. Environ Biol Fish 80:465–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rowat D, Gore MA, Baloch BB, Islam Z, Ahmad E, Ali QM, Culloch RM, Hameed S, Hasnain SA, Hussain B, Kiani S, Siddiqui J, Ormond RF, Henn N, Khan M (2008) New records of neonatal and juvenile whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) from the Indian Ocean. Environ Biol Fish 82:215–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rowat D, Speed CW, Meekan MG, Gore M, Bradshaw CJA (2009) Population abundance and apparent survival estimates of the Seychelles whale shark aggregation. Oryx 43:591–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sajeela KA, Rakhee C, Rekha JN, Gopalakrishnan A, Basheer VS, Kizhakudan SJ, Kizhakudan JK, Vijayan KK, Lakra WS (2010) Mitochondrial DNA sequences for forensic identification of the endangered whale shark, Rhincodon typus (Smith, 1828). In: Nimis PL, Vignes Lebbe R (eds) Tools for identifying biodiversity: progress and problems. Edizioni Università di Trieste, Paris, pp 353–354Google Scholar
  46. Schmidt JV, Schmidt CL, Ozer F, Ernst RE, Feldheim KA (2009) Low Genetic Differentiation across Three Major Ocean Populations of the Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus. PLoS ONE 4(4):e4988Google Scholar
  47. Silas EG (1986) The whale shark (Rhincodon typus Smith) in Indian coastal waters: is the species endangered or vulnerable? Mar Fish Inf Serv Tech Ext Ser 66:1–19Google Scholar
  48. Silas EG, Rajagopalan MS (1963) On a recent capture of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus Smith) at Tuticorin, with a note on information to be obtained on whale sharks from Indian waters. J Mar Biol Assoc India 5:153–157Google Scholar
  49. Smith A (1828) Descriptions of new, or imperfectly known objects of the animal kingdom, found in the south of Africa. S Afr Com Adv 3:2Google Scholar
  50. Stevens JD (2007) Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) biology and ecology: a review of the primary literature. Fish Res 84:4–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vivekanandan E, Zala MS (1994) Whale shark fishery off Veraval. Indian J Fish 41:37–40Google Scholar
  52. White WT, Cavanagh R (2007) Whale shark landings in Indonesian artisanal shark and ray fisheries. In: Irvine TR, Keesing JK (eds) Whale sharks: science, conservation and management. Proceedings of the First International Whale Shark Conference, 9–12 May 2005 Australia. Fish Res 84:128–131Google Scholar
  53. Wolfson FH (1983) Records of seven juveniles of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). J Fish Biol 22:647–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. V. Akhilesh
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. P. R. Shanis
    • 1
  • W. T. White
    • 2
  • H. Manjebrayakath
    • 1
  • K. K. Bineesh
    • 1
  • U. Ganga
    • 1
  • E. M. Abdussamad
    • 1
  • A. Gopalakrishnan
    • 3
  • N. G. K. Pillai
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Marine Fisheries Research InstituteKochiIndia
  2. 2.CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric ResearchHobartAustralia
  3. 3.National Bureau of Fish Genetic ResourcesKochiIndia

Personalised recommendations