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Pod of 4 killer whales spotted off Sindhudurg coast in Maharashtra

Orcas are the largest of the oceanic dolphin family with white teeth and a recognisable colour pattern consisting of shiny black and white or cream.

mumbai Updated: Apr 19, 2019 12:42 IST
killer whales,orcas,orcas spotted off sindhudurg coast
One of the four killer whales or Orca, that was spotted off the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg coastline. (Photo Credit: Fisherman Akshay Haram)

A pod of four killer whales or Orcas were spotted off the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg coast line earlier this month, the state confirmed.

“We assessed sightings by the local fishing community there and this is the first time killer whales were recorded to have moved as north as the Ratnagiri coastline ,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state man grove cell.

Orcas are the largest of the oceanic dolphin family with white teeth and a recognisable colour pattern consisting of shiny black and white or cream. Being carnivores, they are one of the most powerful predators at sea with a wide prey base including whales, dolphins among other marine animals. They are protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Akshay Haram, a fisher man from Devgad, Sindhudurg ,who photographed the pod, said ,“We spotted two males, one female and a calf almost six kilo metres off Devgad harbour on April 8. On April 1 and 4, the same pod was spotted 200m off the coast in shallow waters at a site between Purnagad and Gaonkhadi in Ratnagiri,” he said. Haram shared his images with marine biologist Swapnil Tandel who made the finding s public.

“Prior to this sighting, there was no authentic documentation of this species from Maharashtra. There is a need for more awareness among coastal stakeholders to help identify protected and endangered species for better conservation efforts ,” Tandel said .

The mangrove cell plans to initiate a detailed study following the sighting .“Due to rise in the sea surface temperature sowing to climate change, the possibility of smaller fish migrating northwards cannot be ruled out. Carnivores, chasing them, follow the same route. This is a hypothesis and has to be confirmed through studies,” Vasudevan said.

Pan-India wildlife research group Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) said It was a rare occurrence and a protocol was needed to involve the fishing community for more such documentation. “It’s an exciting documentation, especially for Maharashtra, as they have been spotted sporadically across the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea,” said Deepak Apte, director. BLAHS. “We have a good dolphin population in south Konkan. Orcas are ocean travellers but sighting them so close to the coastline is a unique event ,” Apt es aid.

“A large pod has the capability to kill a blue whale. However, these pods are not as common in equatorial waters as they are in temperate waters,” said Mihir Sule, a marine expert from Konkan Cetacean Research Team, adding, “There is a need for more studies .”

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 12:42 IST