MoEFCC okays Maharashtra’s proposal to study distribution, population of Arabian Sea humpback whales

Maharashtra is the third state alongside the nation’s west coast, which can be part of the research on the distribution and population of Arabian Sea humpback whales.

The initiative has already been undertaken by Karnataka and Goa, as half of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s (MoEFCC) endangered species restoration programme.

The MoEFCC mentioned that they had accepted a proposal to assist Maharashtra’s plans to use a mix of acoustic and visible monitoring strategies to bridge the data hole for the whale species within the Indian waters. Maharashtra seeks to implement a community-based monitoring community to report sightings and strandings of such marine species.

“Maharashtra is the third state to have submitted its plan after Karnataka and Goa. Understanding more about this species is extremely important. We will be supporting the Maharashtra government in this project,” mentioned Soumitra Dasgupta, further director-general of forests (wildlife), MoEFCC.

“Arabian Sea humpback whale is a signature species, whose conservation is also being pursued by the International Whaling Commission (IWC),” he added.

IWC is a worldwide physique that appears into whale conservation. “The commission is appreciative of India’s efforts towards conservation of this particular species,” the IWC had mentioned.

Earlier on August 7, the Maharashtra state board of wildlife (SBWL) had accepted the proposal on Arabian Sea humpback whales following a report compiled by the Mangrove Cell.

The Maharashtra authorities had submitted its closing proposal to MoEFCC on November 12.

“It is a good development, as emphasis is being laid on conservation of marine species. We are trying to protect those species that have not been in focus. We will be looking at many more such studies in a phase-wise manner,” mentioned Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) (wildlife), Maharashtra.

The state’s analysis programme has been proposed from December 2020 to October 2025, which is split into 5 annual phases.

The first part consists of figuring out seasonal incidence patterns and habitat use of the species via passive acoustic monitoring (sound recorders). A visible survey alongside Angria financial institution — off the Malvan coast — will likely be undertaken together with genetic pattern assortment from stranded baleen whales for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing over the subsequent 12 months.

The subsequent phases will embrace long-term monitoring, vessel-based line transect survey with photo-identification workouts, and growing a community (stranding) of stakeholders, local people members, researchers and veterinarians.

Virendra Tiwari, further principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) (Mangrove Cell), mentioned, “Our attempt is to understand the seasonal occurrence pattern of these whales based on the audio recordings. It will help determine critical hotspots for their breeding or feeding grounds along the Maharashtra coast. Continuous acoustic monitoring will help understand their communication behaviour and how they are affected by the noise of ships and seismic (oil) exploration in offshore areas.”

The complete price range for the five-year venture is round Rs6.12 crore, which will likely be shared by the Centre and the state authorities in a ratio of 60:40.

“Most of the research on this species has been carried out in Oman. This species has not been studied much in the Indian coastal waters and there have been sporadic records of their presence. There have also been some stranding incidents of this species on the western Indian coastline,” mentioned Manas Manjrekar, deputy director, Mangrove Foundation.

In June 2018, Arabian Sea humpback whales had been one of 4 species to be added to the restoration programme throughout the forty ninth assembly of the standing committee of nationwide board of wildlife (NBWL), underneath the MoEFCC.

The ministry had requested all states to develop five-year motion plans. Arabian Sea humpback whale was the twenty first species, which was included within the plan, mentioned Dasgupta.

The state authorities has proposed that this species of the whale’s population is probably going to be lower than 250 mature people.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission cetacean specialist group recognized {that a} population estimation study — via identification by {photograph} – confirmed between 60 and 111 humpback whales alongside the Oman coast, which make their manner throughout the winter in direction of hotter waters of India’s west coast.

According to the Arabian Sea Whale Network, the latest sighting of the species was by scuba divers close to Netrani Island off the Karnataka coast final December.

Hindustantimes

However, telemetry research by the Environment Society of Oman have been repeatedly reporting Arabian Sea humpback whales crossing into Indian waters.

“Maharashtra’s bid to begin its studies on the whale species is heartening news. However, there has been a delay in the fieldwork because of the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak. This has put a spanner in our works to compare whale songs between India and Oman,” mentioned Dr Dipani Sutaria, a senior analysis fellow, who has undertaken in depth analysis into Arabian Sea humpback whales.

THREATS TO THE SPECIES

Humpback whales noticed alongside India’s west coast are half of the distinct Arabian Sea population. The species is taken into account to be probably the most remoted whale population on this planet and recognised as non-migratory.

As per the IUCN Red List, the species is endangered and it’s protected underneath Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

An grownup whale ranges between 40 and 50 toes (ft) in size and weighs up to metric 30 tonnes. These whales may be discovered within the coastal waters alongside Yemen, Oman, Iran, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The species is recognised as a genetically remoted inventory that’s separated from different populations roughly 70,000 years in the past.

Historical data present that this small remoted population was additionally subjected to whaling.

In 1966, Russian whaling ships within the Arabian Sea had caught 238 humpback whales inside 10 days, out of these 164 (69%) had been killed off the Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat, and one other 12 (5%) had been killed shut to the Gulf of Khambhat.

Other threats to these species embrace: entanglement in fishing gears, strikes by ships, disturbance from vessel noise, and seismic surveys associated to oil and pure fuel exploration in offshore areas.

(Source: Maharashtra’s proposal to the Centre, IUCN)

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