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Government to use data, experts to handle mammal strandings

Published : Feb 26, 2016, 7:20 am IST
Updated : Feb 26, 2016, 7:20 am IST

In light of the increasing number of sightings and stranding incidents of marine animals in Maharashtra, the state forest department together with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has decid

 The dead Bryde’s Whale that was washed ashore on January 28, 2016
  The dead Bryde’s Whale that was washed ashore on January 28, 2016

In light of the increasing number of sightings and stranding incidents of marine animals in Maharashtra, the state forest department together with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has decided to collect data and also rope in international marine mammal experts to help them in developing skills towards conservation of these animals. This will also help in equipping the department to handle situations of stranding more effectively, said a source from the forest department.

The joint efforts began with a workshop on Thursday where the protocol to be followed during a live or dead stranding of any marine mammals like whales, dolphins and porpoises, was discussed.

Speaking during the inauguration of the workshop, N. Vasudevan, the chief conservator of forests, said, “Due to the increasing instances of whale, dolphins and other sea mammals in Maharashtra, it was imperative that we take steps to monitor such incidents, gather and analyse data that will help us in conserving these animals.”

According to a UNDP outreach and monitoring associate, very little information exists on the different marine mammal species of India and a comprehensive approach needs to be adopted for protecting these animals.

However, the GoI-UNDP-GEF Sindhudurg project, (UNDP’s current project with the Union ministry of environment) has initiated several steps towards capacity building of officials and coastal communities and population assessment of marine mammals.

The international experts who have been included in the project include an ocean expert and acoustic engineer from UK, Dr Nicholas Tregenza and a marine biologist from USA, Dr Sarah Piwetz.

After the workshop, one of the experts Dr John Wang said that after his interaction with the officials from the forest department, he was convinced that the government is serious about the issue of frequent stranding of marine animals off the coast of Maharashtra.

Recent instances Last year, a mother-calf pair of blue whale had been sighted off the Sindhudurg coast in Maharashtra, which was reported as the first such sighting in over a 100 years. Soon after, in June 2015, a 45-feet long blue whale died in Alibaug in a rare case of live stranding. In February, forest officials and a group of villagers rescued a 40-feet long blue whale, which was stranded on the shallow waters at Kolthare beach in Dapoli taluka, Ratnagiri district. There have also been a few other incidents of beaching of other species of whales such as the Bryde’s Whale, the Sperm Whale and the Humpback Whale along the state coast in recent years. The latest among these was the washing ashore of a dead Bryde’s Whale at Juhu beach on January 28. The different species of whales are protected under Schedule II Part-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.