A DAY after a blue whale which had washed up on the shore of Madban village in Ratnagiri district was rescued by a team of local fishermen and forest offcials after a five-hour operation, authorities have lauded the improved awareness levels among the locals and the officials concerned that helped to respond to the situation correctly.
The operation was carried out by tying fishnets and ropes around the mammal and using 2-3 boats to pull it into the water, while pushing it from the back. Unlike previous instances of beached whales dying despite rescue efforts, this operation was successful due to a number of factors. Firstly, the whale was not completely beached. It was in shallow waters which buoyed the whale, making it easier for rescuers.
Also, increased awareness among the locals and the officials about strategies through books published in Hindi and Marathi helped in dealing with the situation correctly. N Vasudevan of the Mangrove Cell said, “Since this was an isolated area, there was no crowd to interfere with the rescue operations. The rescuers were able to do their job and use their strategies unhindered.” The whale is estimated to have been an adult that weighed 15 tonnes. It was nearly 47 feet long.
The whale washed up on the shore on the night of September 10, and locals immediately called up local MLA Uday Samant who then informed the Fisheries Department which referred it to the Forest Department. Divisional Forest Officer V R Jagtap’s team, comprising a few forest officials and NGO personnel, reached the spot an hour after the call.
“Since that was the fifth day of Ganesh Chaturthi, there were groups performing Visarjan there and we were not able to launch an operation the same day,” he said. He claimed that locals were asked to keep an eye on the whale for the duration of the night. The team was back at the scene at 7 am on Sunday and the preparations for the rescue commenced. The actual rescue operations started at 9 am and lasted for at least 3 hours. The whale was pushed 10-15 feet deeper into the water so that it could become agile again. “There were 50-60 people who had gathered for the rescue operations in the morning after word of the incident was circulated,” Jagtap said.