30 dead baleen whales on Tiruchendur shore
Officials said 30 of the washed ashore baleen whales were dead near the Tiruchendur beach in this district. Sources claimed that another 250 of the same species were stranded in shallow waters. Efforts to push the stranded mammals into deep waters are being made. A team of fisheries department's officials had hurried to the scene to conduct a preliminary probe.
Baleen fin-whales wash ashore on Tamil Nadu coast
Several small whales (short-finned pilot whales) washed ashore in Tiruchendur in Tamil Nadu on 11 January 2016. The 16km stretch from Alanthalai to Kallamozhi coastal hamlets was covered by these whales. The local fishermen tried to push the whales back but they kept returning. Most of these whales seemed disoriented and officials have notified the maritime science authorities.
Similar whale corpses washing up elsewhere
Previously on 1 March 2015, three sperm whale carcasses washed up near Puducherry, Alambaraikuppam near Marakkanam and Uyyalikuppam near Kalpakkam in the south of India. In August 2015, US authorities ordered an investigation after the "carcasses of 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four other whales of indeterminate species turned up along the coast" in Alaska since May 2015.
Probable causes of disorientation of the whales
Former director of Zoological Survey of India K Venkataraman explaining the strange occurrence said the said mammals were social marine mammals. They exist in groups and disorientation of the leader due to changes in underwater may lead to the group "drifting from their normal path and head towards the shoreline, leading to their deaths." Disorientation could occur due to earthquakes, geo-magnetic deviations etc.
Earthquakes in Philippines and Indonesia may be the reason
On 11 January morning, 2 earthquakes measuring 6.5 and 6.9 in magnitude on the Richter scale were experienced in the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively. Scientists are of the opinion that these could have disoriented the whales.
Fin whales the 2nd largest mammal
The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalusis) is the second largest mammal in the world after the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).
Study to ascertain the cause of deaths
Marine Scientist Velumani at the fisheries department explained that this was an 'unusual mortality incident' and it was important to find its cause. He also said that oceanographic experts will be called upon to "study the health of the stranded whales and also the eco-system." Assistant Director of Tuticorin fisheries department, Amal Xavier, said the cause could range from navy sonars or pollution.