Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 October 2020

Environment

15-metre long dead whale spotted off coast of Ras Al Khaimah

The huge mammal was found 11 kilometres from Al Jazeera Al Hamra port by a fisherman

A whale carcass was found spotted off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah on Tuesday.

The 15-metre mammal was found by a fisherman about 11 kilometres from Al Jazeera Al Hamra port.

Marine experts suggested it was likely a Bryde’s whale, which can grow up to 15.6m in length and weigh about 40,000 kilograms. Male Bryde’s whales are typically slightly smaller than females.

The species is common in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and has previously been seen off the UAE's coast. It feeds on a variety of small fish and crustaceans by filtering sea water through keratin bristles in it's mouth, known as a baleen fringe.

Humaid Al Zaabi told The National he was headed back to port after a fishing trip when he noticed the carcass floating in the water.

“There was a very bad smell coming from the corpse and some fish were feeding off its body,” he said.

“I took some photos and videos before going back to the port. I also informed the coastguards because some fishing boats might accidentally crash into the carcass at night.”

Videos taken by Mr Al Zaabi showed the body had begun to decompose.

Dead whale off RAK coast
A dead whale is spotted off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy: Humaid Al Zaabi

“The south-easterly wind direction and current brought the dead whale to our waters and it might keep drifting and reach Umm Al Quwain,” he said.

Dr Saif Al Ghais, executive director of Ras Al Khaimah's Environment Protection and Development Authority, estimated the whale died about two weeks ago.

“The whale is most probably a type of baleen whale, a filter feeder,” he said.

“It looks decomposed from the photos a . but the cause of death can't be determined.

“The current in our part of the sea moves anticlockwise so this has helped in moving the carcass to our side,” he said.

Dr Al Ghais said that, should the carcass reach the shore, authorities will organise its removal and take samples for research.

Natalie Banks, founder of Azraq, a UAE marine conservation organisation, said the whale could have died after being struck by a vessel.

“The condition of the whale in the pictures does not allow for age or sex to be determined but the species is a baleen type of whale, likely to be a Bryde’s whale," Ms Banks said. "It looks like it could have been struck by a ship.”

Bryde’s whales are listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The species is not typically targeted by commercial whalers but they are exposed to a variety of stressors and threats, including vessel strikes and ocean noises.

“Baleen whales are filter feeders, meaning that they use baleen instead of teeth to collect krill, plankton and small fish from the sea," Ms Banks said.

“Bryde’s whales are found in warm, temperate oceans. At this time, there is not enough information to estimate population trends for the Bryde’s whale species as a whole."

The Arabian Gulf has been identified as a possible migration route for these large mammals.

In April, Fujairah Whale Project shared a video of a Bryde’s whale that was spotted off the coast of Fujairah.

Another video was shared in January of Bryde’s whales emerging from the water to breathe off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

Strandings of this species have occurred in recent years in the UAE. Last year, the carcass of a 12m Bryde’s whale was found floating near Sir Abu Nair island off the Sharjah coast. Officials believed the mammal was struck by a vessel.

Updated: October 14, 2020 08:48 PM

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