The blue whale is back in the sea off the Maharashtra coast after a gap of almost a century. A mother-calf pair was recently spotted in the waters near Kunkeshwar in Sindhudurg district. The equally rare Bryde’s whales were sighted four times around the same time.
The Konkan Cetacean Research Team, while on a survey to study Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins near the Sindhudurg coastline, spotted the blue whales on March 28, approximately 2.7 km offshore at a depth of 16 metres. The Bryde’s whales were seen on April 11, 16 and 30 and May 6.
“It was a mother-calf pair of the blue whale. The Bryde’s whales included a small pod of four, of which one was a mother-calf pair,” said Mihir Sule of the four-member research team, which were on a boat. Blue whales are marine mammals and they are the largest animals on Earth. They can reach an average length of 23-27 metres, with the largest known being 33 metres.
These animals tend to be open-ocean species, but they do come close to the shore to feed. Blue whales are resident or migratory, usually seen alone or in pairs.
The project to study dolphins, supported by the Union government and the United Nations Development Program, is being implemented by the Maharashtra State Mangrove Cell.
“Sighting of the blue whale is rare anywhere in the world. As per our records, the last time when a sighting was recorded off the Maharashtra coast was in 1914. That was a dead whale whose carcass was washed ashore,” N. Vasudevan, Chief Conservator of Forest, Mangrove Cell, told The Hindu .
He said no conclusion about the occurrence of blue whale could be drawn from the sightings. “We have to study whether it has migrated here or has always been in these waters,” he said.The cell is also responsible for coastal and marine biodiversity protection.