Sperm whales and blue whales sighted by fishermen off the coast of Pakistan

Blue Whale Pakistan 2017_09_11

Still image taken from video footage captured by WWF-Pakistan trained tuna fishing vessel skipper, Saeed Zaman off Churna Island, Balochistan on Monday, 11 .

We have featured a few earlier posts about the exciting reports of live whale sightings that are made by WWF-Pakistan’s crew-based observers working from fishing boats off the coast of Karachi and beyond.  As fishing resumes in the post-monsoon season, the first reports of 2017 are starting to arrive.  As of September 12th there have been 10 live whale sightings reported so far – one of them representing the first live sighting of sperm whales, and the other representing the first live sightings of blue whales ever recorded off the coast of Pakistan.

The two sperm whales were observed near Jiwani, Balochistan about 22 kilometers south of Gunz.  The fishing vessel, headed by Captain Mehar Gul, followed the two sperm whales for nearly 1.5 hours and recorded them on camera before they eventually disappeared into the sea.  The video footage was examined by WWF’s Moazzam Khan and other cetacean experts who confirmed the characteristic features and diving patterns of sperm whales.

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A still image captured from video footage taken by Captain Mehar Gul who followed the two sperm whales and recorded them on camera. The image shows the characteristic dorsal fin (left) and square-shaped head and single blow-hole (right) of the two sperm whales.

The blue whale mother and calf pair were observed off Churna Island, Balochistan on Monday, 11 September 2017. WWF-Pakistan’s trained skipper, Saeed Zaman was fishing for tuna when he spotted a very large whale estimated at 17 metres in length, almost the same size of his boat.  The calf surfaced rarely so its size could not be assessed.  These whales were also captured on video, allowing confirmation of the species identification.

The presence of both of these species in Pakistani waters is not of great surprise, as they are found in the Sea of Oman and Arabian Sea coastal waters of Oman  and India and were both documented in the illegal soviet catches off the Arabian Sea coasts of Pakistan and India in the 1960’s.  There have also been some documented strandings and remains of both of these species in Pakistan over the years.

However, these recent sightings are of immense value as they demonstrate that these species are still present in Pakistani waters, and the sighting of a calf indicates that the animals may be reproducing in the area.  These sightings are remarkable for having been well documented by fishermen, at a relatively small cost compared to the costs associated with dedicated cetacean surveys.  The distribution of whale sightings that are accumulating through WWF’s unique programme should both inspire, and inform more targeted marine mammal research in the area, where surveys can be designed to target areas and times of year when fisheries-based observations were most frequent.

Items in the Pakistan media featuring these latest sightings can be found in:

SPERM WHALE SIGHTING:

The Dawn

The Daily Pakistan

Samaa TV Buzz

The International News

The Tribune

BLUE WHALE SIGHTING:

The Dawn

The News

The Tribune