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Research on marine mammal diversity in Goa

Foreword to Dipani's article:Dipani, the author
Dipani has studied Dolphins in Australia and met us while doing a project on the Dolphins found in Goa. She has written a small article on her work for our site. All the photographs have been copyrighted and are the property of Dipani Sutaria. The photograph of the Finless porpoise belongs to Samuel Hung. Our web-development team has processed these images for the web and they appear here with Dipani's permission

Dipani impressed us with her scientific approach to marine research and conservation. There's a lot to be learnt from this gal. We asked her how we could help and she had several suggestions. Some of them expensive, some involve setting up a network of observers along the coast. Anybody interested? Volunteers who would like to commit some time and resources, can get in touch with us. Funds are welcome too. Once we know what resources (people, skills, time, money and equipment) we can count on, we will draw up a program. Looking forward to hearing from YOU.



Goa - a Scientific approach to conserving its marine mammal diversity
by Dipani Sutaria

Dept of Marine Biology, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, MA, USA

g_dsutaria@umassd.edu

   Foreword    Introduction    Marine Mammals recorded off the West coast of India    Methodology

Introduction:
Goa (15.48 -14.53 °N and 74.20-73.40 °E) has approximately 104 km of open coastline. It is known for its rave parties, its serene sunsets, its five star hotels and its tourist crowded beaches. Tourists both local and foreign consider Goa to be a hot vacation spot and the local community depends on the tourist season for its annual income. Mindsets and psyches are geared towards activities that attract a customer.

In this environment, convincing people that Goa is a haven for scientific research when it came to studying its marine ecosystem was not easy. The fact that I had decided to study the population of dolphins along the coast was looked upon as a crazy and futile initiative. When I went out looking for a boat to hire and explained the hours and the kind of work involved, boatmen laughed at me. Well, maybe they were actually trying to figure out a way to get a good deal and at the same time, work fewer hours. The one thing I learnt after spending 2 months floating around in Goan waters was this: a Goan loves his fish curry and rice on time, his afternoon siesta and his evening fenny. It's a good way to be, but I would not have been able to be a temporary Goan was it not for the boat, the sun, the camera, the GPS and of course the dolphins. I hope this article for Birdswing, Goa can inform the fellow Goan that there is so much work to do when it comes to studying and conserving Goa's marine environment - Work that is enjoyable…its Goa after all. The time to start is right now.
groups of dolphins are often spotted off the coast
I had been hearing accounts about the dolphins that people caught glimpses of while sipping their drinks and soaking the sun. When I went looking for published information, I found there was none. Those were the days when I was still forming a research proposal. I decided to take up two areas to study, the Gulf of Kutch and the coast of Goa, mainly due to the differences in topography and anthropogenic influences between the two areas. Compared to the Gulf of Kutch, which is lined with Oil refineries and petroleum industries, the degree of industrialization along the coast of Goa is very low. Approximately 600 fishing trawlers operate along the coast of Goa. Moreover, the Goan coast is sandy and rocky while in the Gulf of Kutch the coast is mainly muddy with coral reef formations. The idea was to do coastal boat surveys to identify the species of marine mammals present, the general abundance using photographic identification and direct counts. We also covered the entire coast by foot to interview fishermen and to look for dead or stranded animals. Before I get into details just a few lines about marine mammals. Marine mammals are divided into three main types- Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), Pinnepedians (seals) and Sirenians (Manatees and Dugongs). Marine mammals like other mammals give birth to live young, breathe air, have a body temperature higher than the surroundings and lactate. But, owing to their mode of existence they have highly specialized physiological and morphological adaptations. These help to maintain body temperature, to deal with high pressure, to see, to hear, to communicate and to facilitate prolonged dives underwater.

Indian waters have 30 of the 83 Cetaceans and one of the two Sirenians found worldwide. The list below has been produced from published records, mainly of dead animals washed ashore but many of these could be misidentifications.

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  Marine mammals recorded off the West Coast of India from Gujarat to Cochin:



  Scientific name

  Common name   Location

  1. Sousa chinensis

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin Alibag, Bombay, Goa

  2. Delphinus capensis /D. tropicalis

Common Dolphin Goa, Mangalore, Cochin

  3. Stenella longirostris

Spinner Dolphin Mangalore, Cochin

  4. Tursiops truncatus or T. aduncus

Bottlenose Dolphin Bombay

  5. Neophocaena phocaenoides

Black Finless Porpoise Goa, Bombay

  6. Pseudorca crassidens

False Killer Whale Gulf of Cambay, Maharashtra

  7. Orcinus orca

Killer Whale Gujarat

  8. Physeter macrocephalus

Sperm Whale Mangalore southwards

  9. Baleanoptera musculus

Blue Whale Gujarat, Bombay

  10. Baleanoptera physalus

Fin Whale Bombay

  11. Eubalaena australis

Southern Right Whale Gujarat

  12. Dugong dugon

Dugong Gulf of Kutch


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