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40-foot whale carcass washes up at Mumbai shore; second in 5 months

The incident first came to light on Saturday morning after local residents reported about a whale carcass in the shallow water at Navy Nagar, Colaba

mumbai Updated: Oct 23, 2017 23:41 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,whale,carcass
One half of the carcass was found near Pilot Bunder Road.(Kunal Patil/HT)

Five months after a 45-foot-long Bryde’s whale carcass washed ashore at Juhu beach in two pieces in May, a similar incident was reported on Monday from Navy Nagar, Colaba.

A 40-feet carcass of a Bryde’s whale had washed ashore in two pieces. Though the experts from state mangrove cell are yet to ascertain the cause of the mammal’s death, they suspect that the animal may have died two weeks ago.

The incident first came to light on Saturday morning after local residents reported about a whale carcass in the shallow water near the shore. However, the forest officials located the carcass on Monday afternoon.

While the animal’s tail (approximately 14 feet) was found behind Oyster apartment building near Pilot Bunder Road, the rest of the body (about 26 feet) was spotted 500 metres away — behind a construction site on Shahid Bhagat Singh Road.

The latest incident takes this year’s toll of marine mammals washing up along Mumbai and its neighbouring beaches to 83.

A Navy Nagar resident told HT that he had spotted the carcass on Saturday morning. “I told the local fishermen about the whale, but they did not believe me. After an unsuccessful attempt to contact the state mangrove cell on Sunday, I was able to get through the officials and took them to the site on Monday,” he said.

Commenting on the cause of the whale’s death, Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forests, state mangrove cell, said, “Since we have seen similar cases in the past, we can rule out the possibility of an accident with a ship. The carcass seems to be of an adult and might have split into two after hitting a rock as it washed ashore during high tide,” said .

Researchers from the Konkan Cetacean Research Team (KCRT) collected samples and data from the site after the carcass was identified. “These whales grow up to a maximum size of 50-feet. However, we were not able to ascertain the exact length of the tail. The carcass was bloated, which made it difficult to ascertain the cause of animal’s death. However, our research is underway,” said Ketki Jog from KCRT.

Marine life experts said that it was Bryde’s whale, common in the Arabian sea and protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

About the whale

Bryde’s Whales (Balaenoptera edeni) are the most common baleen whales along the Indian coast. They can be easily identified at sea by the presence of three ridges on the rostrum. They have a sharp rostrum and variable falcate dorsal fins. They can reach a maximum length of 15 meters.(approximately 50 feet) They are known to feed on small schooling fish such as sardines.

•Known to feed on small fish such as sardines.

•Weight can be between 13-22 tons

•Population is less than 100,000 across the world

•Range is the warmer parts of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans

•Protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

(Source: The Konkan Cetacean Research team)

What’s causing marine animal deaths?

While there is no conclusive proof for 80 marine animal deaths over the past two years, there have been several speculations. HT takes a look at some of them:

•Pollution close to coastlines leading to extremely poor water quality

•Plastic trash at sea choking these species

•Injuries after being hit by large vessels at deep seas

•Climate change and sea level rise

•Lunar tides – marine animal beaching taking place during full moon and new moon nights after the tides recede

•Fishermen alleged that oil companies carrying out seismic surveys - seismic blasts from ships to the ocean floor to identify oil and natural gas – that disorient the communication pattern for marine mammals leading to accidents

•Marine animals getting caught at large nets close to the shore and deep sea

•Oil spills at dockyards and at deep seas choking marine animals

•Rise in sea surface temperatures pushing mammals closer to the surface of the ocean and then getting hit by large vessels

First Published: Oct 23, 2017 22:28 IST