Marine animal carcasses found on Mumbai’s beaches raise alarm

The growing number of marine specie deaths raise an alarm as the tally in 2017 has already reached 10 in the first four months.

mumbai Updated: May 29, 2017 09:02 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
olive ridley turtle,mumbai beaches,Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin
A carcass of an Olive Ridley turtle washed ashore Uttan beach last week.(HT Photo)

A sudden spurt in deaths of marine animals—six carcasses found along the Mumbai coast in the past six days—has raised an alarm among environmentalists.

Decomposed carcasses of three Olive Ridley turtles were spotted at Vasai and Uttan beaches last week. A dead Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin was found on the beach at Bhuigaon, Vasai. On Saturday, the carcass of an Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin and an Olive Ridley turtle were spotted at Juhu and Versova.

The toll in 2017 has already reached 10 in the first four months. Over the past two years, carcasses of nearly 30 dolphins, six whales and finless porpoises have washed ashore along the Mumbai and Maharashtra coast.

Zoologist and former member of the National Institute of Oceanography, Nitin Walmiki, who identified the carcasses, told HT that according to his research, most deaths occurred during summer months.

“Owing to high temperatures, there has been a rise in both sea surface temperature and that of the ocean floor. This is forcing the marine species to constantly move and find cooler habitats,” he said.

Major mammal deaths (2015-17)
  • February 25, 2017: The carcass of a four-foot finless porpoise washed ashore at Bhuigaon beach, Vasai
  • January 15, 2017: The carcass of a three-foot finless porpoise washed ashore, opposite Taj Hotel, Nariman Point in south Mumbai
  • January 1, 2017: A five-foot dolphin carcass had washed ashore at Nariman Point. Mangrove cell officials said that the mammal had lost direction and hit a hard surface of a ship or rock several times
  • October 7, 2016: A mutilated carcass of a 35-foot blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, washed ashore at Guhaghar beach
  • September 11, 2016: A 47-foot blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, was rescued from a beach near Madban village, close to Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Ratnagiri district. It was rescued by forest officials with two boats and 50 people
  • February, 2016: A 40-foot blue whale was rescued with the help of two boats in a nine-hour rescue operation near Daboli, Ratnagiri. This was the first ever successful rescue operation carried out along the coast of Maharashtra for the largest mammal in the world. A 20-member team had used two boats to rescue it
  • January 29, 2016: The carcass of a 40-foot male Bryde’s whale washed up at Juhu beach, near Juhu Tara Road. The whale was beached for 17 hours and could not be rescued
  • March 2, 2016: Three cases of dolphin carcasses that washed ashore at Girgaum Chowpatty, Gorai beach and Bhuigaon beach, Vasai
  • December 13, 2015: The carcass of a two-and-a-half-foot finless porpoise, protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, washed ashore near Haji Ali Dargah
  • November 27, 2015: The carcass of a six-and-a-half-foot Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin washed ashore near Bhagwanlal Indrajit Road, Malabar Hill
  • July 22, 2015: A six-foot carcass of an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin with injuries on its body was discovered on Bhuigaon beach in Vasai. High tide carried it back into the sea, said local fishermen
  • June 17, 2015: The carcass of a seven-foot dolphin was found on Vasai beach
  • June 1, 2015: A mutilated carcass of a humpback whale was found on Manori beach. Only the skin and skeleton of the whale could be recovered as other parts had decomposed
  • May 5, 2015: Carcass of a six-foot Indo-Pacific dolphin was found at Versova beach. A four-foot dead porpoise was also found at the same location
  • April 27, 2015: A six-foot dead dolphin was found wedged in the rocks near Oberoi Hotel at Nariman Point

“However, since they are unable to do so, they are either losing sense of direction and hitting large vessels or moving into the deep seas where they cannot sustain the impact of massive waves,” he said.

Officials from the state mangrove cell said that they were planning a study to check the cause of deaths.

“The rise in marine mammal and reptile deaths is worrying. We are looking into the possibility of carrying out a study under our Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation foundation soon,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

“While the impact of climate change could be one of the primary causes, only a detailed study can establish what is happening. In the meantime, we will be collecting tissue samples of the carcasses for further studies,” he said.

Fishermen blame oil firms

HT had reported in February that after a carcass of a four-foot finless porpoise washed ashore at Bhuigaon beach, Vasai, perturbed fishermen from Mumbai decided to approach the National Green Tribunal alleging that oil companies had been carrying out seismic blasts from ships to the ocean floor to identify oil and natural gas.

The impact of the firms’ machines had made it difficult for mammals to navigate the ocean and this is probably what caused their deaths, feel members of the fishing community.

A seismic survey is a process to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor through the use of sonic cannons (air guns) to shoot compacted air to the ocean floor, creating sound waves that map oil and gas reserves in the seabed.

“Notices have been sent to various government bodies to respond to our allegation. Once we receive the responses, we will approach the tribunal for the hearing,” said Damodar Tandel, president of a Mumbai based fishing community.

“Also, we are contemplating whether we should file a petition regarding the same at the Bombay High Court,” he said.

First Published: Apr 17, 2017 09:09 IST