However, a Fisheries department official explained that netting a whale and bringing it to the shore is a risk many fishermen would not take.

Whale washed ashore in Chennai killed after getting caught in a netTREE
news Environment Wednesday, December 05, 2018 - 11:39

A Byrde’s whale (tropical whale) washed ashore at Kannathur coast, 30-kilometres from Chennai on December 3 at around 6.00 am. The aquatic mammal was spotted at the beach by the Sea Turtle Protection force members of Kannathur. The members along with Dr Supraja Dharini of TREE Foundation informed the State Forest Department about the mammal that was identified to be a juvenile male measuring 22.5 feet long and weighing approximately 3 tons. 

Experts who studied the whale’s carcass observed that the deep cut mark on its tail (fluke) could’ve been the reason for its death. “Whales, like turtles, are air-breathing creatures. They will have to come up once in a while to breathe. We suspect that the cut could’ve been caused by a motorboat. We also found traces of nets and ropes on its tail. The whale could’ve got caught in a net and subsequently drowned,” says Dr Supraja. 

A press note from TREE Foundation reads, “The local fishermen had said that the young whale might have been caught in a trawl net and towed by the rope tied to the tail and then discarded near the shore, when there could have been no buyers for the whale.”

An official from the Fisheries department, however, explains that netting a whale and bringing it to the shore is a risk many fishermen would not take. “Furthermore, it can’t be sold. It is too risky to transport an animal that weights tonnes of kilos to the shore, not to mention the waste of resources in doing so.”

The whale was buried 50 metres above the high tide line with the help of a JCB, as per instructions from the District Forest Officer, Kancheepuram.

Dr Supraja tells TNM that since the reason for the whale’s death was quite evident, there was no need for a post-mortem. “Also, the whale’s stomach was bloated and open, since it began decomposing. We couldn’t find any plastic residue inside,” she shares.

Bryde's whales are creatures of tropical and subtropical zones, and are found both offshore and near the coast in many areas. 

Dr Supraja tells us that this is the first such whale sighting for this season (between November and March) along Kancheepuram coast. However, researchers have recorded dolphins like Bottle Nose, Spinner, Indo Pacific Humpback as well as whales like Blue Whale, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, Pigmy Sperm Whale, Sei Whale, Porpoises and Whale Sharks being washed ashore in the past.

According to their documentation, during the last season (between February and May 2018), researchers have spotted carcasses of 27 Spinner Dolphins and one Rissos Dolphin on the Kancheepuram coast.

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