Fishermen and Forest department officials spent 10 hours on Wednesday-Thursday, attempting to push a female blue whale, which had washed up on a beach in Alibaug, back into the ocean. At last, however, she died on the beach — with the ocean simply out of reach. In the first instance of a ‘live stranding’ in Maharashtra, the whale — which weighed 20 tons and measured 40 feet — washed up on the beach Wednesday morning and passed on at 4 am Thursday.
Their inability to push the mammal back into the ocean came as a rude awakening for authorities of the forest department, who said they “are not prepared for an eventuality like this”. It likewise incited the department’s mangrove cell to fast-track a plan to welcome international experts so they can figure out how to handle stranded marine animals. The cell plans to organize cooperations between the experts and authorities of the Navy, Coast Guard and the Forest department so they can build up a comprehensive strategy for preservation of whales and dolphins, said N Vasudevan, boss 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.