Mumbai: Blue whales, a rarity around the world, have been spotted by researchers along the Sindhudurg coast of Maharashtra, the first such sighting in 100 years.

Marine biologists who have been studying the marine biodiversity in the state’s coastline spotted the pair of mother and calf blue whales, the largest mammals in the world, some 3 kms off the coast of Sindhudurg recently. The researchers also spotted Bryde’s whales between March and May.

“Blue whales were last sighted off Maharashtra’s coast in 1914 and since then there has been no record of seeing them until now,” N. Vasudevan, Chief Conservator of Forest, Mangrove Cell, told Gulf News.

The sightings were reported by the Cetacean Population Study Team researching along the Sindhudurg coast for the past six months under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project on Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity and implemented by the Maharashtra State Mangrove Cell.

The team of researchers said they were excited to see the blue whale emerge from the water and then the calf, which they followed for some time in their trawler and then left them alone.

The research work has been focusing on this district’s coastal areas including Deogad, Malvan and Vengurla and the adjoining seascape up to 12 nautical miles. The study is meant to lead to better understanding of the factors that influence the distribution and abundance of cetaceans — one of the most distinctive and highly specialised orders of mammals, which include species like dolphins, porpoises, whales and dugongs.

Under this study, the team also recorded sighting of 687 dolphins, of which 153 individual dolphins were identified because of the distinct features such as their fins. Also spotted were four Bryde’s whales four times between March and May.

The Sindhudurg Coastal and Marine Ecosystem is one of the 11 ecologically and economically critically habitats identified along the Indian coast. The critical habitats in the region include rocky and sandy shores, rock island, estuaries, mud flats, marshy land, mangroves, coral reefs and sargassum forests. There are 367 species of marine flora and fauna reported from the area, which include globally significant species like Whale sharks, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Olive Ridley turtles, Green and Leatherback turtles and corals.