Three specimens of blanket octopus were recorded from different spots along the Sindh and Balochistan coast this week, World Wide Fund (WWF) Pakistan said.
In a statement released by WWF Pakistan, a 0.8-metre long blanket octopus was recorded by Nakhuda Saeed Badshah from offshore waters of Balochistan on December 7. This was the first live authentic report of this octopus species from Pakistani waters. While fishing 45 nautical miles south of Ormara, Balochistan fishermen caught the octopus in their gillnet. Considering it a new and rare find, they released it safely back into the waters.
The second specimen, WWF Pakistan said was reported by Nakhuda Ameer Rehman and was caught about 103 nautical miles southwest of Ghora Bari, Sindh on December 8. This one-metre long specimen was also released back into waters. A third specimen was caught by fisherman Nakhuda Hasnat Khan who caught a blanket octopus about 92 nautical miles southwest of Cape Monz at the confluence of Sindh and Balochistan on December 9. This octopus was about 0.8-metre long and was released back immediately.
Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries) Muhammad Moazzam Khan pointed out that blanket octopi (Tremoctopus violaceus) are oceanic cephalopods, which are found in surface to mid-waters in subtropical and tropical oceans.
They are known as blanket octopus because of their long, transparent web that connects the dorsal and dorsolateral arms of adult females, he said.
The female octopus can reach 2 metres in length, whereas males are much smaller (2.4 cm). He also shared that when threatened, the female octopus unfurls her large net-like membranes that spread out and billow in the water, largely increasing her apparent size; thus avoiding predation by fish and other animals. These animals also use ink to intimidate potential predators.
Khan informed that blanket octopus feed on free-floating (pelagic) gastropods and small fishes, however, their occurrence in wide areas along Pakistan cannot be attributed to any specific factor. He shared that recently a large bloom of jellyfish (Crambionella orsini) has been reported from offshore waters of Pakistan.
“There is possibility that the blanket octopus are feeding on this jellyfish or might have some other biological association,” he added.
A number of species of octopus occur in Pakistani waters but four species are common. Of these, the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) and veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) are commercially harvested in Pakistan. It is estimated that during 2018, 950 metric tons of octopus was exported from Pakistan to southeast Asian countries.
Director Wildlife and Regional Head Sindh and Balochistan WWF-Pakistan Dr Babar Khan said this occurrence of blanket octopus was an important addition to the cephalopod fauna of Pakistan.
“Although this is first record reported from Pakistani waters, but it can help in finding the remaining population of this unique cephalopod,” he added.
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