Watch: Bryde’s whale spotted off the coast of Fujairah

The mammal eats an estimated 630kg of food daily and can weigh about 40,000kg

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A rare sighting of a Bryde’s whale was recorded off the coast of Fujairah.

The video was captured by Fatma Al Hantoobi, head of the environment and reserve department at Dibba Municipality.

The recording was shared by the Fujairah Whale Project on April 29.

The Bryde's whale, part of the baleen species, is considered one of the “great whales”. It belongs to the same family as the blue and humpback whales.

In the 15-second clip, the animal appears to be feeding on fish, as it emerges from the water.

"At the beginning of the clip it looks like the whale is lunge feeding," Elayn Looker, marine biologist at the Five Oceans Environmental Services in Oman, and part of the Fujairah Whale Project team, told The National.

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With less boats and fishing vessels on the waters at the moment due to the Covid-19 crisis, the whales have become more curious.

“It appears on the surface with its mouth open.

“It’s hard to hazard a guess regarding the size or age of this particular mammal as there is no scale to measure it against, but it appears as though there is a second dorsal fin close by.

“It could be a mother and calf, but I can’t fully confirm that.”

Bryde’s whales, named after Johan Bryde, a Norwegian man who built the first whaling stations in South Africa in the early 20th century, eats an estimated 630kg of food per day. Interestingly, the name is pronounced as "broodus".

They can reach up to 55 feet long and can weigh about 40,000kg.

Their diet mainly consists of krill, shrimp and a variety of schooling fish, including herring, mackerel and sardines.

They use different methods to feed, including skimming the surface, lugeing, and creating bubble nets.

“There are two types of whales; toothed or baleen, which are the non-toothed variety,” said Ms Looker.

“Bryde's whales have baleen plates inside their mouth, which act like sieves.

"The baleen plates are made up of keratin, the same fibrous structure as human hair.

“When they feed, they gulp in the water, close their mouth and lift up their tongue to catch their prey while filtering out the excess seawater."

The Fujairah Whale Project was set up in 2017 with the aim to document any “cetacean”, the collective term for whales and dolphins, in local waters.

While Bryde's whales have probably been living within the gulf for many years, Ms Looker said sightings are rare as they prefer quieter waters.

"When we have been out conducting our own surveys via boat and helicopter observation, we have only ever spotted dolphins," she said.

“With less boats and fishing vessels on the waters at the moment due to the Covid-19 crisis, the whales have become more curious.”

“Usually, they tend to stay away as the loud noise from vessels can impact their communication streams."

Conservationists have said a lack of human activity and noise would have encouraged marine life to approach the shore.

A pod of dolphins were spotted close to the Dubai shore on Sunday for the first time since 2013. Courtesy - Loïc Cordelle

On Sunday, bottlenose dolphins were spotted off the Dubai shoreline for what is believed to be the first time since 2013.

In January, Bryde’s whales were spotted off the coast of Abu Dhabi. The videos were shared by Abu Dhabi Environment Agency on its Instagram account.

All Bryde’s whales are protected under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, which was passed by the US Congress in 1972.

In 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US listed the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

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