Fishermen in Pakistan free entangled humpback whale

Video of the entangled whale, that was freed by a WWF-Pakistsan trained captain of a tuna vessel.

The WWF-Pakistan led programme to train fishing captains in how to report whale sightings and free accidentally entangled wildlife from their nets is yielding more and  more valuable information and saving the lives of endangered whales.

On the morning of December 13th, a 10.5 m long Arabian Sea humpback whale was found entangled in a monofilament net that the Al-Mustafah fishing boat had set on the previous night.  Captain Nakhuda Sajan put out a call for help to nearby fishing vessels, and the tuna vessel, Al-Jihad, captained by Saeed Badsha, a WWF-Pakistan trained fisherman, immediately rushed to the scene and safely released the whale.

The WWF-Pakistan programme is led by ASWN members Rab Nawaz and Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan and Chairman of Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society.  In the past three  months alone, the programme has yielded 22 confirmed sightings of Arabian Sea humpback whales off the coast of Pakistan (involving an estimated 43 individual whales). It has also provided sightings of Bryde’s whales, and the release of a bottlenose dolphin and a turtle.

Prior to the launch of this programme, the only clues to the current distribution and population status of Arabian Sea humpback whales outside of Oman were the catch positions of 242 whales illegally hunted by the Soviets in the 1960’s.  Mapping the locations of these recent fishermen-reported sightings will help ASWN members determine where to focus future research efforts that will include photo-identification, genetic sampling, and possibly satellite tagging.   This research is urgently  needed to learn how the whales present off Pakistan are related to whales that have been studied off the coast of Oman over the past 16 years, and how  many whales are left after the intensive hunting by the Soviets.

The programme is well-publicized, and media coverage in various newspapers (such as the Pakistan Daily Times, and the International News) and television coverage is helping to increase awareness of Arabian Sea humpback whales and their conservation status.

The ASWN plans to organize regional capacity building meetings to replicate this successful programme in other parts of the Arabian Sea Humpback whale range.  Watch this space!