Karela Fry

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A poisoned sea?

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In the last couple of weeks the newspapers have printed photos of several dead humpback whales washed up on the beaches around Mumbai. Clearly something strange is happening in the Arabian sea. Decaan Chronicle reports:

Two giant Baleen’s humpback whale sharks washed up dead on the Mumbai and Thane beaches in separate incidents last week. This was preceded by a Bryde’s whale shark getting washed ashore at a beach in Ratnagiri, around 250 km south of Mumbai.

In the past couple of months alone, over a dozen dead dolphins, usually seen frolicking in the calm blue-green Konkan coast waters, washed up on different virgin beaches in the region.

Conservationists suspect chemical or oil poisoning.

But the alarm bells rang when in late March, a dozen big and small Olive Ridley turtles were found dead on various Konkan beaches. This was in addition to over five dozen turtles of different varieties being reported dead on Konkan beaches, right from Ratnagiri to Thane, in the past month or so.

“In the past few years, Mumbai and surrounding coasts have witnessed many sunken ships, oil spills and other forms of assaults by humans on nature. This could be one of the reasons for the large number of sea animal deaths on beaches and a warning that we cannot continue to tamper with the natural surroundings,” [Himanshu Shah, director, Nature and Adventure Centre of the prestigious Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan] said.

[Vishwas (Bhau) Katdare of the NGO Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra] said SNM has already informed the authorities about the ongoing developments in the Konkan region and if necessary, he plans to write to the state and central governments on the issue.

“The worst aspect is that the scientific autopsies of these dead creatures are not being carried out to ascertain what could have caused so many deaths in such a short period, whether it is pollution or chemical poisoning or some other reasons,” Katdare pointed out.

The Konkan is one of the biggest nesting grounds for Olive Ridley, sea green and other giant and small turtles in the world, and the annual turtle festivals attract tourists and conservationists from all over the world here.

Shah called upon the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other agencies as well as the fisherfolk to take immediate steps to ensure that ships sailing in and around the Konkan region do not discharge chemical wastes, hazardous pollutants or leak oils in the Arabian Sea.

More details were reported by IE:

After a third whale was found dead along the Konkan coast in the span of a week, the state forest department is investigating the cause of death of each of the animals at the divisional level.

A whale belonging to the humpback species was found dead at Diveagar coast in Raigad district last week. This came after one whale each, of the same species, was found beached at Uran and off Priyadarshini Park, Napean Sea Road on March 29 and March 31 respectively.

“We are investigating each of the cases at the divisional level. It is possible that the cause of death of each animal may be different,” RK Pole, Chief Conservator of Forests(CCF), Thane said.

Sarfaraz Khan, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Roha and incharge of the Diveagar case, said he has written to the National Institute of Oceanography for their expertise in marine biology. “We have also written to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to ascertain if the death has anything to do with marine pollution,” he said.

“The whale was badly decomposed and was putrefying thus the vet we consulted said a post mortem will not be possible,” Khan, about the Diveagar whale said.

Meanwhile, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute(CMFRI) has launched its own detailed study on the matter. “This report has not been commissioned by the government or any agency but we are doing it out of concern. We are seriously looking at finding the cause of death and are in the process of preparing a detailed report, which may be ready in a week or so,” Dr Vinay Deshmukh, Principal Scientist, CMFRI said.


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