New Delhi, Apr 7 (UNI) Union Minister for Science&Technology and Earth Sciences Kapil Sibal today released a Marine Mammal Atlas depicting their distributional patterns, species composition, behaviour and molecular taxonomy.
From the Indian Ocean, 26 species of marine mammals have been reported so far. Marine mammals are migratory in nature and play a key role in the marine food web.
Mammals such as whales, dolphins, porpoise and sea cow are important component of marine ecosystems.
Incidental catches in fishing gear have drastically reduced the populations of these wonderful creatures of the world oceans.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences had initiated a programme during the 10th Plan period to Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) and contiguous seas.
The programme was coordinated by the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology, an attached centre of MoES at Kochi. The project was executed by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi.
Data and information on the marine mammals was gathered through sightings recorded from the Ministry's Fishery and Oceanographic Research Vessel, FORV Sagar Sampada during the period 2003-2007 involving 750 days of cruising, 472 sightings and observations on 5632 individuals. These information have been used in the generation of the atlas on the marine creatures.
The study indicates that the areas around Kanyakumari, Cochin Calicut, off Visakhapatnam and south of Sri Lanka, have maximum abundance and diversity, and have the potential for developing ecotourism.
Conclusive evidence on the existence of 17 species of marine mammals (6 species of whales, 9 species of dolphins, one species of sea cow and one species of porpoise) within the Indian EEZ including genetic characterisation of 10 species have been established.
Considering their threatened status, many international bodies such as International Whaling Commission (IWC), United Nation's Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are taking measures to protect and conserve them.
The IWC, in 1979, declared the Indian Ocean as a sanctuary for whales. Countries such as Canada, Hawaii and Thailand have developed benign ecotourism ventures on marine mammals found in their EEZ.
However, information on the distributional patterns, species diversity, abundance and genetic diversity are scanty from the Indian EEZ.
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