KARACHI: In the hope to get ambergris, fishermen took out the stomach of a blue whale they had found floating dead a day earlier in the Khuddi Creek, located about 39 kilometres southeast of Karachi, and sold it to a dealer on Wednesday, sources told Dawn.

No ambergris, however, was found in the stomach of the 67-foot-long marine mammal, they added.

“Some sections of the media gave incorrect news that we found ambergris and made good money. The dead marine mammal could only provide fishermen with oil that was extracted from its fat. The oil is used to polish boats to make them waterproof,” said Saddam Hussain Brohi, a fisherman who with his two dozen colleagues dragged the mammal to the shore.

“Large parts of Vesar (the local name of the blue whale) are still lying there,” he added.

It’s the second time in four years that a dead blue whale has been reported. Earlier, the battered body of an adult blue whale with some of its parts missing washed up on the Seaview beach in 2011.

Giving his opinion, Mohammad Moazzam Khan, working as a technical adviser on marine resources with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan and head of the Whale and Dolphin Society of Pakistan, said that although the cause of the whale’s death couldn’t be confirmed, it was likely that the marine species got disoriented and died after entering shallow waters.

“We have collected samples from the specimen for a DNA analysis that will be done in the US,” he said, adding that blue whale was a rare species, although there had been evidence of its sightings as well as cases of dead specimens being washed ashore along Pakistan’s coast.

The blue whale, he said, was considered the largest animal ever known to have lived in the world and was an endangered species like other whale species.

Regarding fishermen’s hopes to find ambergris, he said that the solid and waxy substance was only produced in the intestines of a sperm whale and was thought to protect it against intestinal irritation caused by the beaks of its prey, squid and cuttlefish.

Ambergris, he said, was an excretion often found floating on the oceans or collected from the shores of many countries around the world. It was generally used in perfumes and medicines and had been highly valued for a long time.

“The WWF is soon to launch a project for whale conservation with special focus on the Arabian humpbacked whale, a species endemic to the Arabian Sea. We will be working partners with all regional countries,” he said.

According to the information available on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) website, the blue whale is a cosmopolitan species, found in all oceans except the Arctic, but absent from some regional seas such as the Mediterranean, Okhotsk and Bering seas.

Blue whales feed almost exclusively on euphausiids (krill), with a variety of species being taken by different blue whale populations.

The migration patterns of blue whales are not well understood, but appear to be highly diverse.

“There is no doubt that the global blue whale population has been depleted greatly. Although there are uncertainties over present abundance, the total population has been depleted by at least 70pc, and possibly as much as 90pc, over the last three generations, assuming a 31-year average generation time.

“The species therefore meets the criterion A1(abd) for endangered, and probably meets the same criterion for critically endangered. The dominant contribution to the reduction in the global population is the massive reduction of the formerly very large Antarctic population,” the IUCN website says.

The main threat to the blue whales in the past was direct exploitation, which only became possible in the modern era using deck-mounted harpoon cannons. They are subject to some ship strikes and entanglements but reported cases are few. The implications of rise in sea temperature on the blue whales are unclear but warrant monitoring, it says

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014