January 31, 2021 7:24:15 pm
Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Thursday released Marine Mega Fauna Stranding Guidelines for long-term conservation of marine species and their habitats.
Over the past few years, live and dead stranding of lone and groups of marine mammals and turtles have been reported across the country’s coastline. However, as there was no database of the stranded marine animals, the frequency and the hotspots have not been identified. Over the years, experts have stressed on data collection, constituting a response team in the coastal states and offering training to the first responders.
The guidelines, released on Thursday, aim to improve coordination between various independent governments and civil societies responding to marine stranding, research and management, data sharing and thus promote inter-sectoral coordination in the conservation of marine animals.
The guidelines aim to prepare a database on cetacean sighting and stranding across the country, and help set up a national stranding centre and another in the state with district/local coordinator with high stranding and bycatch cases.
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The role of a marine wildlife stranding network is to inform, rescue/rehab, collect biological information and if possible, ascertain cause of death of animals.
A basic marine stranding network will consist of first responders, forest guard, divisional forest officer, government official veterinary and marine police. A first responder keeps a live individual comfortable and a dead individual from getting washed back into the sea and helps the scientists, veterinarians and the departments in data collection or rescue release operations.
In absence of standardised steps for stranding response and investigation, officials could be seen deliberating about how to move a massive carcass of a 37-feet Bryde’s whale washed ashore the Juhu beach in Mumbai in 2016. The carcass was moved only after over 24 hours, without a defined protocol or necessary safety equipment.
The guidelines lay down the steps to be followed for live and dead stranding. In case of live stranding, where the animal can be released into the sea, they will be tagged.
“All responders must use gloves and masks. Each rescued marine animal may be satellite tagged, if the health of the stranded animals is good, for later identification and to track movements after release,” read the marine stranding guidelines.
In the state, strandings have been reported in Mumbai, Alibaug, Sindhudurg. In Maharashtra, funds have been set aside to build a marine animal rescue centre to deal with stranded animals, for which the Konkan Cetacean Research Team conducted a few workshops with the state mangrove cell and the forest department.
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