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Goodbye, dolphin: Thoothukudi fishermen recount their rescue mission

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A Thoothukudi fisherman describes his recent encounter with the gentle mammal, the video of which has been going viral on social media

A Thoothukudi fisherman describes his recent encounter with the gentle mammal, the video of which has been going viral on social media

The sea holds many surprises. For 16-year-old fisherman I Praveen, it came in the form of a gigantic dolphin that got entangled in his net. He was part of a nine-member crew that set out to sea from Thoothukudi on his uncle’s gillnet boat when the encounter happened. “It was around 8am,” recalls Praveen, speaking over phone. “We were at deep sea when the big guy flipped about in our net after getting caught.”

Dolphins are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and therefore, catching them is a punishable offence in India. “My seniors immediately devised a plan to release it,” says Praveen. What followed was a one-and-a-half hour-long operation. Praveen jumped into the water to tug at the portion of the net that was wound around the mammal’s face.

Praveen during the rescue operation
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“I was scared at first,” says Praveen, who started fishing with his uncle only two years ago. “The dolphin was huge and one flip of its tail had the potential to kill me,” he recalls. But soon, he was one with the moment. He swam above the giant in distress, gently easing its pain. A fellow fisherman documented a few minutes of this rescue operation that took place in March this year, on his mobile phone. A Robert, who runs the Indian Ocean Fishermen YouTube channel and Facebook page, shared it last week.  

Robert says it is common practice for fishermen to release protected species back into the sea. “Sometimes, the most fascinating creatures get caught in our nets,” he says, recalling an incident that took place in April this year. It was early in the morning and his team had cast a net for tuna.

In the stillness of the blue-orange sea, he noticed an unearthly glow in the net. The men looked at the creature, their eyes wide open: it was a gigantic oarfish that resembled the mythical dragon. They couldn’t believe their eyes. “We’d never seen anything like it,” says Robert, of the fish, which is associated with sea monster legends in Japan. “Sadly, the fish was dead when we rescued it. It must have got caught a few hours before we spotted it,” says Robert.

The dolphin, however, swam away energetically after its ordeal. “I wanted to climb on to it’s back and swim with it,” laughs Praveen. He didn’t have the heart to let go of his gigantic friend. “I think he too started liking me,” says Praveen, adding, “I planted a kiss on him before he disappeared into the water.”



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