Fishermen and forest department officials spent 10 hours on Wednesday-Thursday, trying to push a female blue whale, which had washed up on a beach in Alibaug, back into the sea. In the end, though, she died on the beach — with the sea just out of reach.
In the first case of a ‘live stranding’ in Maharashtra, the whale — which weighed 20 tonnes and measured 40 feet — washed up on the beach Wednesday morning and died at 4 am Thursday.
Their inability to push the mammal back into the sea came as a reality check for officials of the forest department, who said they “are not prepared for an eventuality like this”. It also prompted the department’s mangrove cell to fast-track a plan to invite international experts so they can learn how to handle stranded marine animals.
The cell plans to arrange interactions between the experts and officials of the Navy, Coast Guard and the forest department so they can develop a comprehensive strategy for conservation of whales and dolphins, said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell.
“This is the first case of a live stranding. We are not prepared for an eventuality like this. We need to have more experts in every district to reduce response time,” an official from the forest department said.
“As the beach was shallow, a large ship couldn’t come close to the animal. Because of the rough weather, no small boat ventured into the sea to assist with the operation. Usually, if such a large animal is beached for more than 12 hours, it does not survive. If we continue to push it using JCB machines, there is a chances of injuries,” said Vasudevan.
Their rescue attempt a failure, the team took a live tissue from the whale to identify the subspecies. “Such stranding of whales happens across the world when the animal loses orientation due to a disease or an injury,” Vasudevan added.