Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

Rare blue whale spotted off Khor Fakkan coast

A group of 10 divers at Shark Island spotted the animal

A blue whale, the largest known animal on the planet, was spotted off Khor Fakkan coast on Friday.

The rare sighting of the giant whale was captured on camera by one of the divers in the area.

The group of 10 divers was returning back to Al Aqah after a diving trip at Shark Island in Khor Fakkan, organised by Divers Down Centre.

“This is my very first dive in the UAE and we were about ten divers in the boat when we saw the whale,” said Mark Similey, a 52-year-old American who came to Abu Dhabi three weeks ago.

The long, slender mottled grayish-blue whale was spotted around 11am on March 13.

“We were coming back from our first dive from a dive site called Shark Island 11am when one of the instructors on the boat pointed out a blow from the whale,” said Mr Similey, who is also a certified dive instructor.

“Everybody looked and the boat was directed towards the whale and when we got closer we saw the whale approach almost right by the boat but I didn’t have my camera at the time.”

Blue whales are a threatened species and in danger of extinction.

The International Whaling Commission banned all hunting of blue whales in 1967.

They are also protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, passed by the US Congress.

The divers saw the whale twice and once when their boat was just half a kilometre from the shore, said Mr Similey.

“When the whale approached the boat again that’s when I took the video,” he said.

“From what we saw we believe it is a blue whale.

“It was the first time I ever saw a whale; it was a moment of excitement and amazement.”

Blue whales have been found in every ocean of the world. They swim individually or in small groups and sighting pairs are common.

Natalie Banks, an Abu Dhabi based marine conservationist, said it is extremely rare to see the majestic and endangered whale in the UAE waters.

“It is even rare to see them in March,” said Ms Banks.

“Currently there is algae and jellyfish spawning so this whale was definitely looking for food.

“The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet reaching lengths just shy of 30 meters and weighing just under 200 tonnes.

“It’s extremely difficult to identify the whale species. The tail lends itself more to a humpback or a Brydes whale, but with the footage captured so far away, it is really hard to know but again I give the benefit of the doubt to my diving colleague,” said Ms Banks.

Michela Colella, operation manager of Divers Down Centre said she was unsure of the species of the spotted whale.

“We were heading back to the centre after a diving trip to Khor Fakkan and the divers spotted this whale,” said Ms Colella.

“Not really sure which kind, it looks like a humpback whale more than a blue whale but it is an amazing sighting.”

A rare sighting of Bryde’s Whales were recorded off the coast of Abu Dhabi in January 2020.

The large mammals were seen emerging from the water to breathe in a video that was posted by Abu Dhabi Environment Agency on Instagram.

Updated: March 17, 2020 09:20 AM

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