The Maharashtra government will conduct the first-ever dolphin population estimate in the coastal waters of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). A recent pilot study in South Mumbai, Backbay, resulted in 27 sightings of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, prompting the state to conduct a detailed MMR survey.
Sanctioned by the Maharashtra State Mangrove Foundation, a preliminary research exercise was conducted by the Coastal Conservation Foundation (CCF) which determined the population and habitat use of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins in the region of Backbay south of Mumbai.
The study was conducted between Haji Ali Bay and Raj Bhavan and in the Back Bay, between April 14 and May 11 this year. The study confirmed 27 dolphin sightings with the largest pod comprising six individuals, including juveniles and sub-adults.
The project’s lead researcher, Shaunak Mod, along with cetacean ecologist Mahi Mankeshwar and marine enthusiast Pradip Patade used a total of seven boat surveys to observe the dolphins. “This rapid assessment gave us a preliminary idea of the distribution of dolphins in the study area and the different ways they use the habitat,” said Mankeshwar, who previously worked in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. on marine mammals.
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Several sightings of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins have been recorded near the coast of Mumbai – Sassoon Pier, Versova and Madh Pier and Bandra Worli Sea Link, among others. These dolphins usually live in shallow coastal waters.
Virendra Tiwari, another senior chief forest conservator, Maharashtra Mangrove Cell, said: “There have been reports of roaming dolphin sightings along the Mumbai coast from Manori, Versova stream areas to Nariman Point. , Marine Drive and towards Alibaug for some time now. . However, no population estimates or analyzes of their habitat use have been done before. The study will start after the monsoon through MMR.
Humpback dolphins are known to travel in groups called pods and it is rare to spot a single dolphin near the coast. Dolphins are an endangered cetacean species, protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Mumbai’s waters are known to be home to at least two cetaceans – the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) and the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), according to anecdotal sightings and strandings. documented.
Researchers around the world have highlighted how climate change is directly influencing the habitat of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, leading to changes in navigation and feeding patterns.
Tiwari added: “These dolphins are also biological indicators and their behavior and the environmental conditions in which they survive will also reveal more details about the climate impacts they are exposed to and the interventions we can put in place.