Divers are the whale shark's best chance for immediate action that will lead to their long-term survival. While the major conservation groups do marinelife protection, two non-profit groups are dedicated to whale sharks: The Shark Research Institute (SRI) and the Whale Shark Research Group (WSRG). While SRI does its own research, such as tagging (pictured above), WSRG provides assistance to other research organizations. Both groups rely heavily on divers, both for hands-on work and for general support - mostly information gathering, petitioning and financial contributions. For example, SRI is currently using donations to prevent hunting in Gujarat, India, where one of the largest annual slaughters takes place. The money will be used during whale shark season to hire fishermen and their boats to take tourist charters instead of hunting. If there are not enough tourists, SRI will simply pay fishermen not to hunt. WSRG is gathering volunteer divers to assist researchers from the aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut with a two-year worldwide DNA sampling study. The results will help determine whale shark population patterns and migratory habits. Both groups ask divers to report via the Internet any confirmed whale shark sightings. Such information helps generate population reports, establishes credible data for legal lobbying and helps researchers find geographic hot spots. To help and to learn more, click on the Web at www.sharks.org, www.whaleshark.org or www.sportdiver.com.
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