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Killer whales in rare visit

U.A.E. marine biologist confirms sightings filmed by Dubai-based captains

by Mildred Fernandes 



In what could be the first documented sighting of Orcas or 'killer whales' inside the Arabian Gulf, three Dubai-based boat captains on a fishing trip filmed a pod of six mammals surfacing about 20 miles off the Jebel Ali coast. The distinctively coloured killer whales, so called for their consumption of other marine mammals, such as young whales, seals and sea lions, can be found primarily in cold ocean waters and occasionally in seas.

Finding these large mammals inside comparatively shallow and semi-closed bodies, such as the Arabian Gulf is exceedingly rare, said U.A.E. University marine biologist Dr Saif Al Ghais.

Rare phenomenon

"It's almost a 99.9 per cent chance that these would not occur inside the Gulf," said Dr Al Ghais. "The average depth of the water here is around 30 metres, which is often not enough for some whales." Dr Al Ghais, who was only convinced of the whale's identity after seeing pictures obtained by Gulf News, said it was possible that the falling water temperatures and the plentiful food available in the Gulf had attracted the pod of whales.

For Kevin Draper, Robbie Gerard and Ken Addcock, the sighting on Tuesday was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The three captains, two of whom run Professional fishing charters, had set out from the Dubai International Marine Club on a fishing expedition and first thought the whales to be particularly large dolphins. 

"We were chatting on the fly-bridge and saw these massive fins, and jumped up to see what it was,"  said  Kevin  Draper, Managing Partner of Dubai-based ‘The Image Works’. "We could tell after a few minutes that they were too large to be dolphins - some of them were 20 feet wide. Then we saw the white markups, and knew they were Orcas."'

The three sailors followed the pod for 15 minutes as it headed toward the Musandam peninsula, and may have got a little, too close for the whales' comfort!! 

Under the boat      *

"One went underneath our boat, at which point we decided to get out of there as soon as possible," said Draper, who recently completed a four-month sailing trip from Britain to Dubai with his family. "We were probably agitating them, and they certainly have the ability and have been known to turn over the boats."

Dr Al Ghais advised any sea-goers and fishermen to keep a respectful distance from whales, but suggested that there could be a wonderful display of such marine life in the coming winter months.

He also said that particular pod of whales had probably long since departed the Gulf!!       :                                                                        Click here to go to questions