In 2001, the Whale Shark Campaign was jointly launched in Gujarat by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), International Fund for Animal Welfare, Tata Chemicals Limited and Gujarat Forest Department, to spread awareness, educate and change perceptions of the fish. Morari Bapu, famous for his spiritual lectures, ingeniously equated the whale shark to a daughter of Gujarat. He called it 'Vhali' or 'dear one' and likened it to a pregnant daughter who returns to her parents' home to give birth to her child; a custom practiced in many parts of India, particularly Gujarat. This drew a huge emotional response from the local people, in favor of the fish’s protection.
In November 2011, MFF India and WTI embarked on a small grant project to assess the past and present distribution of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) along the rest of the west coast of India. With the objective of establishing the distribution and threat status of the whale shark, fishermen surveys were conducted in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and the Lakshadweep Islands; similar surveys were previously conducted by WTI in Gujarat. 1,703 fishermen (between the ages of 25 and 90 years) in 118 fishing villages were interviewed. It was determined that:
The project has culminated in the development of draft state level recovery plans for whale sharks along the west coast of India. These plans will be discussed with State Chief Wildlife Wardens and forest department officials over the coming months