Indian Ocean humpback dolphin spotted along Mumbai’s west coast | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Indian Ocean humpback dolphin spotted along Mumbai’s west coast

Although fishermen say they regularly see humpback dolphins when they go out to fish, it is rare to spot these dolphins so close to shore.

mumbai Updated: May 16, 2018 08:54 IST
Badri Chatterjee and Pramod Thakur
A humpback dolphin spotted close to the shore between the Madh and Versova Jetty.
A humpback dolphin spotted close to the shore between the Madh and Versova Jetty. (Pramod Thakur/HT Photo)

For the first time in six years, an Indian Ocean humpback dolphin was spotted between the Versova and Madh Jetty last week.

Although fishermen say they regularly see humpback dolphins when they go out to fish, it is rare to spot these dolphins so close to shore.

HT spotted the live dolphin on May 9, between 4pm and 5pm, between Versova and Madh Jetty. It seemed unperturbed by the small fishing boats that surrounded it.

“There are several reports of pods of the species between Gateway of India and Elephanta Caves towards Thane creek end,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

HT shared photos of the dolphin with Vasudevan who confirmed the species and said it was a rare sighting.

Dolphins are endangered cetacean species, protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. In 2017, the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin was classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These dolphins usually live in shallow, coastal waters, which puts them at high risk of getting entangled in fishing nets. On May 2, the carcass of an Indian Ocean humpback dolphin had washed ashore Versova Beach. It was too decomposed for a post-mortem and was buried in the sand.

Ketki Jog of Konkan Cetacean Research Team (KCRT) said Mumbai’s nearshore areas are home to Indian Ocean humpback dolphins. “If they do not come very close to the shore, it does not mean they are not present. Availability of prey could be one of the reasons why one might have strayed closer to Versova,” said Jog.

The koli community who fish in the waters around Madh Jetty said that the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin that HT spotted has been seen repeatedly in the area over the past three weeks. “From the last week of April, whenever we are moving close to the jetty to park our boats or discarding fish that cannot be sold, this dolphin surfaces from the water time and again, and probably feeds on the fish,” said Jeevan Kale, a fisherman from Madh island.

Vasudevan said that the spot where the dolphin was spotted would be monitored. “It’s possible that this individual might have lost its sense of direction or might be following a school of fish and landed up here. In any case, this species has a habit to come close to the coast, but coming so close to Versova area is unusual,” he said.

“It is surprising that the dolphin has come so close to the Mumbai coastline but studies carried out by us have shown that the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin species can adapt, survive and tolerate even in polluted coastal waters. They are not perturbed by the movement of large vessels or noise pollution from them easily, and also have capacity to survive where there is oil spills at sea. However, we do not know what is there threshold,” said E Vivekanandan, scientist and marine biologist at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.