Sharks Conservation in India – UPSC Prelims

About Sharks:
  • Sharks come under a subclass of fish species called elasmobranchii. The species in this subclass have skeletons made from cartilage and not bones. They also have five to seven gill slits on each side of their heads. They use gills to filter oxygen from the water.
  • Habitat: Sharks inhabit three major marine habitats such as continental shelves, deep-sea and open ocean.
  • Timescale: Based on fossilized teeth and scales, scientists believe that sharks have been around for more than 400 million years—long before the dinosaurs.
  • India is the second-largest shark fishing nation in the world.
Conservation Measures launched in India:
Inclusion of Sharks under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act
  • Whale Sharks were the first-ever species to be included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972.
  • After this, the Ganges shark and spear tooth shark were also added to Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Whale Shark Conservation Programme:
  • Why was it launched? Whale Sharks were usually caught in Gujarat as bycatch when fishermen target economically benefiting species. It was then used for the liver that was used for commercial trade. Due to this, the Whale Sharks population was reducing and the programme was launched.
  • Whale Shark Conservation Programme: It was launched by Wildlife Trust of India in Gujarat in 2004. Under the programme, workshops were conducted in villages and street plays were written and enacted to convey the consequences of hunting whale sharks.
  • This awareness programme was later expanded to Kerala and Lakshadweep after it was found that sharks that were saved in Gujarat were hunted down in Kerala and Lakshadweep.
Awareness Programmes in the East Coast of India:
  • Why is it conducted? Shark species such as Blacktip sharks, bull sharks, pelagic and big-eye thresher sharks, smooth and scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks were hunted frequently, at the East Coast of India.
  • Among these, Smooth Hammerhead is categorised as Vulnerable and Scalloped Hammerhead as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List.
  • Awareness Programme: Forest Department of Andhra Pradesh along with The East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem has been conducting awareness programmes to educate fishing communities since 2013.
Ban on Export of Shark Fins:
  • Shark skin is used for leather which is made into boots and bags and liver for oil. The fins were earlier harvested for shark fin soup, a sought-after delicacy in Southeast Asia and China.
  • To stop this, the exporting of shark fins was banned in India in 2015.

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