A mother-calf pair of blue whales, the largest mammals in the world, was spotted after nearly 100 years in Maharashtra by a group of researchers, 3km away from the Sindhudurg coast between March and May. Researchers also spotted four Bryde’s whales during the same period.
These sightings were reported by the Cetacean Population Study team, deployed along the Sindhudurg cost for the past six months under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project on Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity and implemented by the Maharashtra state mangrove cell.
“The blue whale sighting was that of a mother-calf pair. They were seen near Kunkeshwar, 2.7km offshore at a depth of 16m,” said Ketki Jog, member, Cetacean Population Study team.
N Vasudevan, chief conservator of the forest, mangrove cell said, “The last sighting of the blue whale recorded off the coast of Maharashtra was in 1914. According to the records of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) – a dead blue whale had washed ashore at the time. In the recent past, another sighting of the mammal was observed in 2010 along the coast of Mangalore.”
“The sighting of the largest mammal just 3km away from the Sindhudurg shore calls for immediate study as to why such a large species is moving close to land,” added Vasudevan.
The mangrove cell head also said regular whale watching activities are going to be initiated across the Sindhudurg coast. “Without disturbing the habitat of the whales, these spots can become a tourist attraction if such mammals are spotted often,” he said.
According to CMFRI researchers, the mammal is found across the Indian Ocean, southern parts of the Sri Lankan coast and quite often they have been found to migrate to parts of Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
E Vivekanandan, consultant and scientist, CMFRI, Chennai, said, “Mammals like the blue whale often frequent the coasts of India. However, the issue is that there has been no documentation of the same. Authorities should invest more such studies to protect the endangered species.”
Jog said a small pod of four Bryde’s whales were also spotted, one of which was a mother-calf pair. “They were first observed around 600m from the coast at an average water depth of 15m,” she said.
Under the UNDP project, the Cetacean Population Study team also sighted 687 dolphins, of which 153 individual dolphins were identified because of distinct features such as their fin. Sightings of close to 40 Finless Porpoise were also recorded across the Sindhudurg coast during the two phases of the study this year.
(Photo credits: The Konkan Cetacean Research Team)