Whale dies after getting entangled in fishing net near Jiwani

November 30, 2019

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The remains of a Bryde’s whale were found on Friday at an isolated rocky beach in Gunz, part of Balochistan’s coastal town of Jiwani.
The remains of a Bryde’s whale were found on Friday at an isolated rocky beach in Gunz, part of Balochistan’s coastal town of Jiwani.

KARACHI: The carcass of a 31-foot-long Bryde’s whale has been found at a remote rocky beach called Chill, west of Gunz, which is a part of Balochistan’s coastal town of Jiwani, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) said on Friday.

Currently all cetaceans — aquatic mammals including whales and dolphins — are endangered in Pakistan and protected under the fisheries’ laws of Sindh and Balochistan.

“Initially, the whale got entangled in a gill net laid by fishermen four days ago in the offshore waters near Gunz to catch Indian mackerel. The whale was huge and quite aggressive,” said Sudhair Baloch, Jiwani-based WWF-P coordinator, adding that fishermen tried to rescue it but failed.

Later, upon getting information about the incident the organisation’s team carried out a search operation along Gwadar and areas near the Iran border and spotted the whale’s carcass at the isolated beach called Chill in the west of Gunz.

The WWF-P team collected photographic evidence, biometric information as well as samples of the whale’s tissue for analysis.

Mohammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser on marine resources at WWF-P, regretted the accidental mortality of the Bryde’s whale and described it as a big loss for the conservation community across the world.

“The fishermen who spotted it first were not trained in rescue operations while our team reached the spot late in the evening when it wasn’t possible to search for the whale in the dark,” Mr Khan explained.

The team was trying to preserve its skeleton, he said.

Mr Khan underlined the need for urgent measures for its conservation given the fact that the species had a very small population in Pakistan’s waters where it’s one of just three baleen whales, also called toothless whales. The other two are the Arabian humpback whale and the blue whale.

“It is categorised as the species of ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A total of 19 toothed whales and three toothless whales have been reported from Pakistan’s waters.”

Asked about the threats the species face, Mr Khan said these included entanglement in fishing nets, boat strike and pollution.

“In our case, however, their entanglement in fishing nets is the greatest risk factor to their population. Cyclones and climate change could also be having a negative effect on their habitat,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2019