Another large whale found dead
26 August, 2013
KARACHI: Local fishermen of Damb village near Sonminai, Balochistan found the corpse of a dead bryde's whale deep inside the Miani Hor Lagoon, about 15 kilometres from entrance to the open ocean. The body was decomposed and its parts were lying scattered on the beach.
The dead whale beached last Tuesday, however, on Sunday a team of officials and experts from WWF-Pakistan, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department, Balochistan Fisheries Department, local environmentalist and officials of two conservation organisations Coastal Association for Research and Development (CARD) and Sonmiani Development Organisation (SDO) inspected and collected DNA samples for analysis.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, an ex-Director General, Marine Fisheries Department and Chairman of Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society were also members of the team. Talking to our sources Khan said that ambergris is not found in baleen whales and fishermen have unnecessary mutilated the carcass of the mammal.
Whales are important marine mammals found in oceanic waters all over the world but these animals seldom enter creek and lagoon areas. According to the fishermen, the whale remained in Miani Hor lagoon for a day, before dying near Titian area. Fishermen towed the whale carcass to the southern part of the lagoon and beached it at Matira, where it decomposed. In their quest for finding ambergris, fishermen have removed a major part of the belly.
Bryde's whale is one of the five species of large whales including Blue, Bryde's and humpback whales; these three are baleen whales, which means they do not have teeth and feed on small animals and fish. These whales have a mechanism that allows them to gulp water in large quantities, which then passes through a screen like structure called 'baleen', that filters animals from the water. All three of these baleen whales are found off the coasts of Sindh and Balochistan.
"Whales seldom venture so deep inside creeks and lagoons. It seems that in pursuit of their prey which are small fish found in shallow waters, this whales had accidentally entered in the Miani Hor lagoon and because of disorientation in the profile of the lagoon it ventured deeper, thus getting stranded," said Khan.
According to Chief Executive of CARD, this adult whale was about 33.3 metres long.
Muhamamd Amin, Conservator Forest and Wildlife Balochistan stressed the need for maintaining a database of whales found live and dead along the coast of Pakistan. He also informed that all cetaceans including whale and dolphins are protected in Pakistan, including Balochistan and their deliberate killing in punishable by law.
Chairman SDO Master Rasheed, who has implemented a project on dolphins in Miani Hor with the assistance of Ocean Park Foundation, Hong Kong informed that the area of Miani Hor is very rich is dolphin population, and rarely whales enter this lagoon.
In most cases, these whales find their way back to the open ocean, but sometimes, due to disorientation, the whale gets lost and dies.
Ali Hasnain another expert of cetaceans in Pakistan has pointed out that Bryde's is one of the common baleen whales found in Pakistan. Although no estimate of its exact population is available in Pakistan, but in the last few years three specimens of this whale beached in Pakistan.
Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society Chairman Khan informed that samples of tissues and bones collected from the whale will be analysed with the help of Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Karachi and will be sent abroad for DNA analysis.
He further informed that since Arabian Sea is bounded in the north by Asia and whale population found in the area cannot migrate up north, towards the polar region, therefore, it is now believed that there is a resident population of whales in the Arabian Sea.
Shoaib Kiyani, an expert of whales working in Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Karachi confirmed the identification of the whale as Bryde's whale, which is scientifically known as Balaenoptera edeni. This specie is found in tropical and subtropical waters of Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
WWF-Pakistan Director Rab Nawaz informed that a regional whale monitoring programme in the Northern Arabian Sea including Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Yemen and UAE has been planned with the aim to estimate the total population of these marine mammals in the area.
He informed that WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with National Centre for Maritime Policy Research (Bahria University-Karachi Campus) and Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society has arranged a "National Workshop on development of strategy for cetacean conservation in Pakistan" on May 22, 2013.
In this workshop, sponsored by Australian Marine Mammal Centre and Indo-Pacific Cetacean Research and Conservation Foundation (Australian Government) a national action plan for protection and conservation of cetacean including whales in Pakistan was discussed with all stakeholders. This plan is now being finalised and will be submitted to Sindh and Balochistan Government for its implementation.
Social Welfare Officer Muhammad Anwar, who was among the team of experts, urged the need for involving communities in conservation of whales and dolphins.
Forest and Wildlife Balochistan Deputy Conservator Abdur Rehman urged the local communities to initiate eco-tourism in the area, which may promote protection of endangered species like whales along Balochistan coast.