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A spinner dolphin – File photo courtesy Creative Commons
A spinner dolphin – File photo courtesy Creative Commons

KARACHI, Dec 19: A huge group of around 3,000 to 5,000 spinner dolphins was recently spotted in a three-square-kilometre area offshore Gwadar during a survey conducted by a team of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan.

“The WWF-P team had the most amazing sightings of dolphins recorded ever along the Pakistan coast on Dec 15,” said Rab Nawaz, Sindh WWF-P programme director who was part of the team surveying the Balochistan coast from Jiwani to Gwadar.

Thousands of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) were all around the boat the team was travelling on, he said, adding that the sighting was recorded in the afternoon during light rain.

Sharing his observations with Dawn, Moazzam Khan, technical adviser to the organisation, said the dolphins appeared very healthy, agile and playful as about 15 animals were riding the bow of the survey vessel while others were performing all sorts of acrobatics including breaches, half breaches, head and tail slaps and spins.

“The dolphins stayed with the slow-moving survey vessel for nearly two hours during which our researchers collected information on the group size, behaviour, and group compositions. Amazingly, many calves (young dolphins) and juveniles were observed by the scientists during this lifetime experience.

“Some Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) were also recorded during this survey. All these findings show that our marine ecosystem is still very vibrant and productive that it can sustain such a bounty of apex predators,” he said.

According to Mr Khan, there is a need to assess human impact on this very intricate and fragile ecosystem and come up with solutions that could accommodate both human needs as well as biodiversity conservation.

“Issues such as use of extremely long gillnets (walls of death), pollution, habitat degradation, ship/boat strikes and dwindling food resources as a result of illegal fishing methods need our purposeful and well coordinated efforts for finding viable solutions,” he observed.

Another major highlight of the trip, according to Mohammad Shoaib Kiani, a cetacean scientist associated with the organisation, was rescue of an entangled juvenile humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) that got trapped in a fisher’s net on Dec 11 near Gunz area of the Balochistan coast.

“The local community managed to release the poor animal by acting according to the advice given to them over the cellphone.

This is another great achievement considering the fact that the Arabian Sea humpback whales have been declared endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of 2008 and the existing number of this species are very low,” he said.

Whales and dolphins, he said, were charismatic animals and played a key role in the stability and health maintenance of marine ecosystem. These animals had ecological, aesthetic and economic importance.