KARACHI: A dead dolphin recently spotted at Clifton beach has been identified as Risso’s dolphin, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) stated on Tuesday.

The incident came to light when its photograph was shared by a citizen last Saturday on the social media.

“Since none of our staff members could visit the site due to the lockdown in the city, we have confirmed through our sources that the photograph of the dead dolphin shared on the social media is very much of the Clifton beach and taken last week,” said Dr Babar Khan, the director and regional head (Sindh-Balochistan) of WWF-P.

The dolphin seems to have died from entanglement in a fishing net, he added.

“This species like other cetaceans is mainly threatened by accidental mortality due to entanglement in fishing nets. As a result of WWF-P’s efforts, most fishermen, especially those engaged in tuna gillnetting in the offshore waters, have shifted from surface gillnetting to subsurface operations substantially reducing the mortality of cetaceans in their fishing nets,” he said.

According to Mr Khan, the annual mortality of dolphins in the gillnet fisheries has decreased from 12,000 dolphins in 2014 to around 60 in 2019.

“This significant reduction in dolphin mortality indicates the positive impact of capacity building of fishermen and awareness-raising about conservation of biodiversity,” he said.

According to WWF-P officials, the stocky body and blunt head with no discernible beak makes Risso’s dolphin distinguishable from other dolphin and whale species reported in the Arabian Sea.

The Risso’s dolphin is known from temperate and tropical waters of the world’s oceans and is seldom seen or reported from the Arabian Sea.

Earlier, three incidences regarding remains and sighting of Risso’s dolphins were reported in early 2000. This is the first time that a complete specimen of a male Risso’s dolphin was found at the Clifton beach.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan working as technical adviser on marine fisheries with WWF-P, washing ashore of Risso’s dolphin is a rare incident as the species prefer to live in deeper waters and are usually found on the edge of continental shelves.

“Coastal squids and offshore species like purpleback flying squids are the main food of this dolphin, which are abundantly found along the coast of Pakistan,” he shared.

It is reported that a total of 22 species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are found in Pakistani waters, which include three baleen whales, 18 toothed whales and dolphins, and a porpoise.

The Arabian humpback whale with its restricted distribution in the Arabian Sea is estimated to have less than 100 in numbers in marine waters of Pakistan, Oman, Iran, India and Yemen.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2020