whale shark habitat assessments in the northeastern arabian sea using satellite remote sensing

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Istanbul Universitesi Kutuphane ve Dok]On: 02 September 2013, At: 11:21Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    International Journal of RemoteSensingPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tres20

    Whale shark habitat assessments in thenortheastern Arabian Sea using satelliteremote sensingBeena Kumari a & Mini Raman aa Marine and Earth Sciences Group, Space Applications Centre(ISRO), Ahmedabad, 380 015, Gujarat, IndiaPublished online: 08 Jan 2010.

    To cite this article: Beena Kumari & Mini Raman (2010) Whale shark habitat assessments in thenortheastern Arabian Sea using satellite remote sensing, International Journal of Remote Sensing,31:2, 379-389, DOI: 10.1080/01431160902893444

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01431160902893444


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  • Whale shark habitat assessments in the northeastern Arabian Sea usingsatellite remote sensing


    Marine and Earth Sciences Group, Space Applications Centre (ISRO), Ahmedabad 380

    015, Gujarat, India

    (Received 8 March 2006; in final form 24 May 2008)

    One of the major requirements for the growing whale shark tourism industry is to

    identify potential areas of their aggregation for sighting. This would require baseline

    information on the occurrence of whale shark and the associated environment. In

    this context, the relationship between whale shark landings, phytoplankton concen-

    tration and sea surface temperature (SST) in the continental shelf and offshore

    regions of Gujarat coast were examined using satellite data from 1998 to 2000.

    Monthly images of chlorophyll-a (chl-a) concentration, an index of phytoplankton

    biomass and SST were derived for the eastern Arabian Sea from the Sea-viewing

    Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) and National Oceanographic and

    Atmospheric Administration-Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer

    (NOAA-AVHRR), respectively. Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) landing data

    were obtained from a survey conducted by Trade Records Analysis of Flora and

    Fauna InCommerce (Traffic)-India of theWorldWide Fund (WWF)-India and the

    Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), India. Mean chl-a concentration

    in the study area (between 2022 N and 6970 E) covering the continental shelfand adjoining offshore region of coast (depth . 25 m) was observed to be signifi-cantly higher (4.23 mg m-3 in February and 3.88 mg m-3 in March) compared to

    regions seaward of the study area (mean of 1.51 mg m-3 for February and 1.16 mg

    m-3 for March) and in southern latitudes of the eastern Arabian Sea (mean of 0.27

    mgm-3 for February and 0.23 mgm-3 forMarch). The SST in the study area ranged

    from 2326C for February andMarch, whereas in the southern latitudes, it rangedfrom 2729C. The SST in regions outside the study area was marginally warmer by0.5C. A significant relationship between whale shark landings off Gujarat, chl-aconcentration and SST was observed. Results presented in this study contribute to

    the idea that the combined use of ocean colour and SST images are an appropriate

    tool to identify potential areas of whale shark aggregation for sightings.

    1. Introduction

    1.1 Whale shark distribution, ecology and biology

    The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the worlds largest fish (figure 1(a)). The largest

    one found to date measured 20 m and weighed 34 tonnes (Chen et al. 1997, Chen and

    Phipps 2002). Despite being harmless, they are facing severe threat from humans due

    to indiscriminate fishing and scientific attention (Pravin 2000). Whale sharks are

    currently protected in Australia, the Maldives, Philippines, USA, Gulf of Mexico

    *Corresponding author. Email: beena@sac.isro.gov.in

    International Journal of Remote SensingISSN 0143-1161 print/ISSN 1366-5901 online# 2010 Taylor & Francis

    http://www.tandf.co.uk/journalsDOI: 10.1080/01431160902893444

    International Journal of Remote Sensing

    Vol. 31, No. 2, 20 January 2010, 379389




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  • and the Atlantic coast. In India, whale sharks were caught opportunistically for

    decades because of high export value for their skin, meat and fins. Since the mid

    1980s, whale sharks were regularly targeted on the coast of Gujarat (northeastern

    Arabian Sea), mainly to supply export markets for whale shark meat and fins (Hanfee

    1997). Whale shark hunting was banned on 28 May 2001 under the Indian Wildlife

    (Protection) Act 1972 placing it under schedule I, the highest protection available.

    Whale sharks are widely distributed in warm tropical waters (excluding the

    Mediterranean) worldwide, usually between latitudes 30 N and 35 S in tropicaland warm temperate seas, both oceanic and coastal (Compagno 1984, Chen and

    Phipps 2002). Records on whale shark capture and incidental landings (Trade

    Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (Hanfee 2001)) show the

    occurrence of whale sharks on the west coast of India, with reports of very few

    catches on the east coast. The shelf-coastal waters of Gujarat in the northeastern

    Arabian Sea is reported to be one of the favourite visiting spots for the whale

    shark during the winter monsoon period, and they have been visiting the shores of

    Gujarat for hundreds of years (Rao 1986, Vivekanandan and Zala 1994, Pravin2000, Hanfee 2001, Pravin et al. 2002). During December, whale sharks are

    observed off the coasts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, as well as the

    east and west coasts of Sri Lanka (Silas 1986). The species is known to be

    migratory, with a tagged whale shark known to have travelled a distance of

    13 000 km from the Gulf of California, Mexico, to near Tonga over 37 months

    (Eckert and Stewart 2001). Several studies indicate that whale sharks probably

    migrate from the Sri Lankan coast along the west coast of India during

    December, reaching the Gujarat coast by February to March (Silas 1986, Pravin2000, Hanfee 2001, Pravin et al. 2002). A study conducted on whale shark landing

    in India during the period 1889 to 1998 suggest that Gujarat (the study area)

    contributed the highest (94.3%) landing (Pravin et al. 2002).

    The whale shark is a suction filter feeder and has a unique suction filter-feeding

    method. As it swims with its huge mouth, which can be up to 1.22 m wide, it sucks

    masses of water filled with prey into its mouth and through spongy tissue between its

    five large gill arches. After closing its mouth, the shark uses gills rakers that are bristly

    structures of about 10 cm long in the sharks mouth that trap the small organisms.




    Dwarka Porbandar


    Jakhau Kandla



    Study Area

    68E 69E 70E 71E 72E 73E 74E 75E

    68E 69E 70E 71E 72E 73E 74E 75E







    25N(a) (b)






    Figure 1. (a) Picture of whale shark in the natural environment. (b) The study area off Gujaratin the northeastern Arabian Sea.

    380 B. Kumari and M. Raman




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  • Anything that does not pass through the gills is eaten. Whale shark can process over

    6000 litres of water each hour (Compagno 1984, Last and Stevens 1994).

    1.2 Arabian Sea: physical and biological oceanography

    The Arabian Sea experiences unique oceanographic features and events compared to

    other world oceans. The semi-annual reversal of monsoon winds are divided into

    southwest (SW) (June to September) and northeast (NE) (December to February)

    monsoon phases, with two transition periods, spring inter monsoon (March to May)

    and autumn inter monsoon (October to November). SW monsoon winds cause

    vigorous and deep anti- cyclonic surfa


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