Mumbai dolphin sightings have nothing to do with Covid-19 curbs: Experts

Hindustan Times, Mumbai | By
Mar 23, 2020 05:50 PM IST

Videos going viral on social media of dolphins being spotted along the south Mumbai coastline have nothing to do with the restrictions imposed in the wake to the coronavirus outbreak and their impact.

Deserted Veiw Bandra Reclemation as India to observe "Janata Curfew" for a day following COVID 19 pandemic in Mumbai, India, on Sunday, March 22, 2020.(Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)
Deserted Veiw Bandra Reclemation as India to observe "Janata Curfew" for a day following COVID 19 pandemic in Mumbai, India, on Sunday, March 22, 2020.(Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)

Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mangrove Cell), Maharashtra forest department, said, “Dolphins are present along the Mumbai coast and have regularly been spotted all the way from Manori, Versova creek areas to Nariman Point, Marine Drive, and towards Alibaug for quite some time. It is nothing new, it has nothing to do with fewer boats or an impact of the coronavirus lockdown.”

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Dolphins are an endangered species, protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

A pod of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins was spotted off the Malabar Hill Raj Bhavan coast on Thursday and Friday by wildlife conservationist Darshan Khatau, who took videos and photographs and was assisted by marine ecologist Dipani Sutaria.

“People are picking up my videos from Malabar Hill coast and sharing them stating that dolphins are being spotted along different parts of Mumbai such as Breach Candy and Marine Drive. This is nonsense and I have made my Instagram account private now,” said Khatau.

“I have been spotting dolphin pods frequently along Malabar Hill over the past few years and have an extensive database. These mammals are spotted in shallow waters from the end of December till the onset of the monsoon season.”

A video by Khatau was shared by actress Juhi Chawla. She tweeted on Saturday, “The air in Mumbai is so nice, light and fresh ..!!! I can’t believe it... and it seems dolphins were sighted just off the shore near Breach Candy club ..!!! This shutdown of cities is not so bad after all #CoronavirusPandemic.”

Then there’s a separate video of dolphins, spotted off Marine Drive, that has gone viral, but the forest department said it was not a recent one.

In May 2018, HT reported that a stray Indian Ocean humpback dolphin was spotted between the Versova and Madh jetty.

“There are several reports of pods of the same species between Gateway of India and Elephanta Caves towards the Thane creek end and I have spotted them in 2013 and 2014 myself, but there are no available sightings of this species towards the west coast of Mumbai for the last six years,” N Vasudevan, then additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell, said back then.

Similar sightings were reported off the south Mumbai coastline thereafter, with many cases after the monsoon of 2019 and earlier this year.

“Indian Ocean humpback dolphins have been present around Mumbai’s coastal waters for many years. They can sustain polluted waters and high turbidity in search of food,” said E Vivekandan, former chief scientist and national consultant, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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