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March 25, 2020

Rare Risso’s dolphin found dead on Clifton beach

Karachi

March 25, 2020

The WWF-Pakistan said Tuesday that last week a dolphin was found dead on the Clifton beach, which has now been identified by experts as Risso’s dolphin, which might have died from entanglement in a fishing net.

The WWF-Pakistan said that last week a photo and a clip of a dead dolphin was posted by a citizen on social media. It has now been identified by WWF-Pakistan experts as a Risso’s dolphin. Its stocky body and blunt head with no discernible beak makes it distinguishable from other dolphin and whale species reported in the Arabian Sea.

Earlier, three incidents regarding skeletal 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 to be stranded on the Clifton beach.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan and president of the Pakistan Whales and Dolphin Society, this stranding is a rare find because Risso’s dolphins prefer to live in deeper waters and are usually found on the edge of continental shelves.

Dr Khan maintained that coastal squids and offshore species like purpleback flying squids are main food of this dolphin, which are abundantly found along the coast of Pakistan.

He pointed out that because of the current lockdown, it would not be possible to obtain skeleton or tissue samples of the animal for genetic analysis, which would be retrieved at a later stage.

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 specimens in marine waters of Pakistan, Oman, Iran, India and Yemen. According to experts, 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.

Dr Babar Khan, director/regional head (Sindh and Balochistan), WWF-Pakistan, said that the mortality of Risso’s dolphin on the Clifton beach was an unfortunate event.

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

The annual mortality of dolphins has decreased from 12,000 dolphins in 2014 to merely 60 in 2019. This 99 per cent of reduction in dolphin mortality indicates a positive impact of capacity building and awareness raising of fishers about the conservation of biodiversity.