Fishermen witness record number of humpback whales

Fishermen witness record number of humpback whales

KARACHI: WWF-Pakistan on Wednesday claimed that some fishermen of Karachi have witnessed a record group of six Arabian Sea humpback whales from offshore waters of Karachi last week.

WWF-Pakistan stated that these are a rare species of whales, though native to Arabian Sea. Islam Badshah, captain of a tuna fishing boat, observed one whale on September 12thabout 12 km south of Karachi.

At the same time another tuna fishing vessel captained by Iqrar Muhammad observed a pod of four Arabian Sea humpback whales about 14 km south of Karachi.

Another humpback whale was seen on September 17th about 22 km south of Karachi by Captain Badshah Nawab. These fishermen have been trained under WWF-Pakistan implemented projects supported by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Global Environmental facility (GEF) and Common Oceans funded Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).

This is for the first time that more than one humpback whale was observed along the Pakistan coast. Earlier, only a single specimen of the Arabian Sea humpback whale was either observed in offshore waters or beached along the coast.

The humpback whale, scientifically known as Megaptera novaeangliae, inhabiting the Arabian Sea is considered to be an isolated subpopulation of this whale that does not migrate to colder temperate or polar waters for feeding or breeding purposes.

According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) there are 14 Distinct Population Segments (DPS) of humpback whales in the world. Of these, the Arabian Sea population is the smallest, most distinct, and most at risk.

According to some estimates there are only 82 individuals left. Its range is believed to extend from the coasts of Yemen and Oman in the west to Iran, Pakistan and India in the east.

Energy exploration and fishing gear entanglements are considered to be major threats to the subpopulation of humpback whales. Additionally, disease, vessel collisions, and climate change are other factors considered to be affecting the population of this endangered whale.

The NOAA categorized Arabian Sea Distinct Population Segments at 'high risk of extinction'. Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programs, WWF-Pakistan, pointed out that in order to develop a collaborative research and conservation strategy for this species WWF-Pakistan has established an Arabian Sea humpback whale network which organized an international workshop in Dubai in January 2015.