Giant blue whale spotted with calf off Churna Island

Updated 15 Sep 2017


THE blue whale recently spotted off Churna Island, Balochistan.
THE blue whale recently spotted off Churna Island, Balochistan.

KARACHI: A giant blue whale has recently been spotted along with its baby off Churna Island, Balochistan, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) reported on Thursday.

This was the first live sighting of the blue whale, stated the organisation, which had earlier reported sighting of a sperm whale pair off Jiwani.

The blue whale is listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and its global population today stands at around 10,000 to 25,000.

According to the organisation, the mother and baby duo were sighted by Captain Saeed Zaman and his team while fishing for tuna off Churna Island.

“The mother whale was around 17 metres long, almost the same size of their fishing boat whereas the calf surfaced rarely so its size could not be assessed,” the WWF-P quoted fishermen as saying.

According to the information available on the National Geographic website, blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on earth. These magnificent marine mammals rule the oceans as they are up to 100 feet long and can weigh up to 200 tons.

“Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant and their hearts as much as an automobile. Blue whales reach these mind-boggling dimensions on a diet composed nearly exclusively of tiny shrimp-like animals called krill.

“During certain times of the year, a single adult blue whale consumes about four tons of krill a day. Its average lifespan in the wild can be 80 to 90 years,” the website says.

Protect Churna Island

Mohammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser on marine fisheries at the WWF-P, called for conserving the biodiversity of Churna Island. “Both old and new records show that the area is ecologically sensitive and is home to a variety of species including whales. It must be declared a marine protected area.”

A number of skeletal remains of beached blue whales, he pointed out, had earlier been reported from Pakistan’s waters.

“The last such specimen was observed in the Khuddi creek along the coast of Sindh in 2014. Last year, there were 47 sightings of baleen whales (characterised by having baleen plates for filtering food rather than having teeth) from Pakistan’s coast but none of them could be recognised as a blue whale, which is also a baleen whale species.”

He attributed the increase in the sighting of whales to pelagic shrimps, which the whales eat. These shrimps are found in abundance in the post-monsoon period.

“Besides, more than 100 fishermen, mainly skippers, have been trained by the organisation to record sightings of megafauna (whales, dolphins, whale sharks, rays, turtles and sunfish) as well as to ensure the safe release of such animals in case of entanglement in fishing nets,” he said.

Under the programme, he pointed out, 60 whale sharks, 45 mobulids, 25 sunfish, six dolphins, one finless porpoise, five whales, 25 sea snakes, five masked boobies (seabirds) and thousands of marine turtles had been rescued.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2017