Whale of a time

Short-finned pilot whales primarily feed on squid, but will also feed on certain species of fish and octopus.

KUALA TERENGGANU: Less than a fortnight after a pair of orcas or killer whales were sighted in Terengganu waters for the first time ever, a pod of short-finned pilot whales have been making an appearance in the state waters.

Rantau Abang Fisheries Research Institute (FRI)’s Marine Mammals branch head Mohd Tamimi Ali Ahmad said the short-finned pilot whales were found swimming near the Perhentian Island in Besut waters, about 30km from the beach and at a depth between 30 and 35 metres.

“The incident was captured by fishermen in a 39-second video clip.“Based on the video recording and the fishermen’s conversations, saying the creatures were very large in size and in a big group, I believe they are short-finned pilot whales because they have this habit of moving in a large group of 10 to 50,” he said in a statement, adding that the animal’s scientific name was Globicephala Macrorhynchus.

On July 16, a pair of orcas appeared for the first time in the waters off Terengganu near the Petronas oil drilling platform in Kerteh.

Mohd Tamimi said the adult short-finned pilot whale would have body length between three and seven metres, weighing between 1,000 and 3,000kg; while the newborns would be between between one and three metres long and weighing between 60 and 500kg.

According to records available at the Rantau Abang FRI, the short-finned pilot whale has never been spotted in Terengganu waters and July 24 marked a historical event with the appearance of the marine mammals for the first time ever.

He said the last time the short-finned pilot whale was spotted was in Sarawak in 2013 and the dead marine mammal was found beached in Labuan in 2015.

Being active predator of the oceans ecosystem, the short-finned pilot whales primarily feed on squid, but will also feed on certain species of fish and octopus.

“The short-finned pilot whales are found in most waters around the world with the favourable habitats, far from the coast, slightly warmer water and has a high density of food such as squid ... perhaps that’s why these whales were going through the Terengganu waters due to current squid season and the South China Sea became part of its migration route,” he said.

In the waters of California in the United States, the whale population can easily be spotted during the squid season but will disappear and migrate to other oceans once the food supply depleted.

The short-finned pilot whales have become endangered and nearly extinct in some parts of the world such as Japan, the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Vietnam where they consumed these marine mammals as part of their diet as the meat is high in protein and has a soft texture.

Mohd Tamimi said the short-finned pilot whale was listed as one of the endangered marine species in Malaysia and the Fisheries Department protected it through enforcement of Section 27 of the Fisheries Act 1985 on Aquatic Mammals or Turtles in Malaysian Fisheries Waters as stipulated under the newly amended Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

It is also protected under the International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the world’s endangered marine species, he added. – Bernama

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