WWF-Pakistan trained fishermen record two pods of rare Bryde’s whale along Sindh coast
Karachi, WWF-Pakistan trained fishermen observed two pods of Bryde’s whales along the coast of Sindh on Saturday, 19 November 2016. Iqrar Muhammad, WWF-Pakistan trained fisherman and captain of Al Azaan fishing boat, informed that he observed a pod of five whales feeding on a school of fish and pelagic shrimps in waters about 15 km off Hajamro Creek, near the mouth of the Indus River. Another WWF-Pakistan trained fisherman, Hasnat Khan also recorded three more Bryde’s whales on the same date about 40 miles south of Khajar Creek, Indus River. The footages show slender body of whales with a sickle-shaped dorsal fin that confirms that these are Bryde’s whales.
The Bryde’s whale, scientifically known as Balaenoptera edeni, is among the three rorqual or baleen whales found in Pakistani waters. The other two are blue whale and Arabian humpback whale. There are a few records of the presence of Bryde’s whale in Pakistan which are mainly based on the beached carcasses. Earlier, a carcass of a Bryde’s whale was found in Damb, Sonmiani on 20 August 2013, while two other specimens were caught in tuna gillnets on 12 July 2010 in Gwadar and 2 May 2014 in offshore waters near Ormara which died during disentanglement.
Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan informed that a regional programme of monitoring of whales in the Northern Arabian Sea including Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Yemen and UAE has been planned with the aim to estimate the population of whales in the area. He appreciated the contribution of observers trained by WWF-Pakistan who have been reporting sightings of a large number of cetaceans in Pakistan. In the last three months about 24 sightings of the Arabian humpback whale were reported by these observers from coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan. Rab Nawaz opined that there is a reasonably large population of whales in our waters, however, there is a need to study the distribution, abundance, biology and interaction of these rare animals with anthropogenic activities in Pakistani waters.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan who is also Chairman of the Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society; informed that WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with the National Centre for Maritime Policy Research (Bahria University, Karachi Campus) and Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society organized a national workshop on the development of a strategy for cetacean conservation in Pakistan on 22 May 2013. In this workshop, a national action plan for protection and conservation of cetaceans including whales in Pakistan was finalized. He appreciated that as a follow-up of this workshop, both Sindh and Balochistan governments enacted legislation for the protection of whales and dolphins in their respective waters. He informed that under the Balochistan (Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Bill 2014, catching of cetaceans including whales and dolphins is prohibited. Similarly under the rules notified in 2016 under the Balochistan Sea Fisheries Ordinance, 1970 and Sindh Fisheries Ordinance, 1981 catching of any whales and dolphins in waters of Balochistan and Sindh is prohibited. He urged both provincial governments to effectively implement these legislations.
The Bryde's whale is the only species of baleen whales that spends the whole year in tropical and subtropical zones. Bryde's whale species is listed as Data Deficient category in the IUCN Red List, meaning not enough is known about its status. However, there are no two opinions that this species is of rare occurrence and its population in some geographical locations, including Pakistan, is declining and is under threat.
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