Sightings of whales in the Northern Arabian Sea along the coast of Pakistan in 2021
Muhammed Moazzam and Rab Nawaz
WWF-Pakistan initiated an observer programme to monitor tuna gillnet operations in the coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan in 2012. In addition to collecting information about tuna and tuna like species, observers were assigned to report observations of whales encountered during fishing operations. Funding for the programme expired in September 2019. However, some of the observers are still providing information on voluntary basis, enabling WWF-Pakistan to document sightings of whales in the coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan, in the northern Arabian Sea. During 2021 a total of 4 sightings of Arabian Sea humpback whales, 1 sighting of a blue whale, 1 stranding of a Bryde?s whale and 28 sightings of unidentified whales were made. The number of whales reported during 2021 (34 reports) is higher than 2019 and 2020 when fewer whales sightings (26 and 19 respectively) were recorded. This may attributed to more active outreach to the volunteer observers as well as a major shift in operation of tuna gillnet vessels in coastal waters over continental shelf during 2021 as compared to previous years when most of the vessels were operating in deeper oceanic waters.