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December 13, 2019

Blanket octopus spotted for first time in Pakistani waters

Karachi

December 13, 2019

In a rare occurrence, fishermen trained by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) have spotted three specimens of blanket octopus from different locations along the Sindh and Balochistan coast this week.

According to a statement issued by the WWF-Pakistan, a 0.8-metre-long blanket octopus was spotted by Saeed Badshah from offshore waters of Balochistan on Saturday, December 7. This was the first live authentic report of this octopus species from the Pakistani waters, the statement added. While fishing 45 nautical miles south of Ormara, the fishermen caught the octopus in their gill net. Considering it a new and rare find, they released it safely back into the water.

The second specimen was reported by Ameer Rehman and was caught about 103 nautical miles southwest of Ghora Bari, Sindh on December 8, Sunday. This one-metre-long specimen was also released back into water, the statement said. Another fisherman, Hasnat Khan, who was also trained by the WWF-Pakistan, caught a blanket octopus about 92 nautical miles southwest of Cape Monz at the confluence of Sindh and Balochistan on December 9, Monday. This octopus was about 0.8 metre long and was released immediately.

The fishermen trained by the WWF-Pakistan have also released turtles, whales, dolphins, whale sharks, sunfish and other animals back into waters in the past.

WWF-Pakistan Technical Adviser Muhammad Moazzam Khan in a statement said that the particular species of octopus was found in warm areas of the world such as Indian Ocean, Pacific and Atlantic. “This was never reported in Pakistani waters,” he said, adding that during the last week, various fishermen came across the species in the sea in Sindh and Balochistan. “This is a new addition to Pakistan’s biodiversity,” he said.

Khan explained that the blanket octopuses (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.

The female blanket octopuses can reach two metres in length, whereas, the males are much smaller around 2.4 cm. Khan 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, avoiding predation by fish and other animals. These animals also use ink to intimidate potential predators. The WWF-Pakistan technical adviser said the species’ addition to Pakistan’s marine animals could be a subject of future research. “This also indicates that our coastal areas are very rich in natural resources.”

Dr Babar Khan, the WWF-Pakistan Sindh and Balochistan technical head, considered the occurrence of blanket octopuses an important addition to the cephalopod fauna of Pakistan. “Although this is the first record from Pakistani waters, but it can help find the remaining population of this unique cephalopod,” he remarked.