Abandoned fishing nets kill whales, turtles in the Andamans

Date October 7, 2009

A “Bruda whale” died after it became entangled in a fishing net. According to Phuket reports, the animal was two or three months old, measured 4.5 metres, weighed 600 kilos and had deep cuts from the netting.

Photo from Phuketwan News

In Phuket, many turtles have been forced ashore this monsoon season. They are either dead, or missing a flipper, usually one of the large front ones. So many turtles are being washed up that it no longer makes news.

And the cause is almost always the same: fishing nets.
Whale Latest Victim in Andaman Sea Catastrophe
Alan Morison, Phuketwan News 4 Oct 09;

A DEAD Bruda whale was brought to Phuket’s Marine Biology Centre last night, latest tragic victim in a trail of pain and destruction among the Andaman’s marine life.

The Bruda is a creature of great beauty, rarely seen or captured on film. Snatches of footage online show it to be a remarkable mammal, glistening as it glides by, distinguished by a slimmer body and larger fins.

The dead Bruda was brought to the centre from the southern province of Trang, where the creature became entangled in a fishing net, an official at the marine centre told Phuketwan today.

The whale was young, but already five metres long. It died after becoming trapped in netting close to the mouth of the Trang River and was brought to the marine biology centre by villagers. An autopsy was being conducted today.

Another death is not only a tragedy for the Bruda whale itself but also sad for Phuket, for the Andaman, for tourism and for the diving industry.

Dugongs, dolphins, turtles, and now a precious rare whale: the catalogue of destruction this monsoon season is a long one, indicating there has been no attention to relieve the cause of most of the suffering: fishing nets.

This week, one sharp-eyed part-time island diver spotted a supplement labeled Shark Cartilage in a Boots store on Phuket, and the international pharmaceutical retailer quickly announced that the product would be removed from the shelves in Thailand.

Shark finning is a shocking practice and one that has endangered sharks in many parts of the world.

But here in Phuket, the suffering continues. We’ve seen too many turtles forced ashore at the popular western beaches this monsoon season.

They are either washed up, dead, or missing a flipper, usually one of the large front ones. It’s a sickening sight to see a creature as wonderful as a turtle in this condition.

So many turtles are being washed up that it no longer makes news. And the cause is almost always the same: fishing nets.

Every dive industry cleanup day produces fishing nets by the tonne.

Large marine creatures are either caught in trawls as boats actively seek schools of fish, or unlucky enough to become trapped in remnants of nets that have been discarded.

Turtles, dolphins, dugongs. And now, a Bruda whale . . . .

If the world has begun to understand the need to save sharks from extinction, perhaps it’s time authorities along the Andaman coast acted to save the precious living treasures that sustain the diving industry.

Phuket Biologists Fear Never-Die Killer Nets, Plastic
Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison, Phuket Wan 5 Oct 09;

FISHING NETS and plastic rubbish are posing a real threat to the marine creatures of the Andaman coast, Phuket marine biologist Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong said today.

“The problem is getting much worse,” added Dr Kongkiat, of Phuket’s Marine Biology Centre. “I am really worried about some species being lost completely.”

His comments came after a young Bruda whale became entangled in netting and died over the weekend.

The whale measured 4.5 metres, had a circumference of 172 centimetres and weighed 600 kilos, an autopsy on Phuket determined.

Dr Kongkiat said the creature was two or three months old. Fishermen off Nok island in Trang found the young creature and brought it to the centre.

The Bruda whale had died because the netting meant it could not breathe or even open its mouth. Cuts from the netting went deep but there were no other wounds on the animal’s body, Dr Kongkiat said.

Bruda whales were native to the Andaman and Gulf of Thailand waters. The area was a breeding ground but the animals usually grew quickly and swam out to sea.

There were three species of Bruda whales and this female specimen was distinguished by having three dorsal fins, he said.

Today and yesterday, distressed turtles were found at Karon beach on Phuket. The one that came ashore there today was a large male green turtle, about 50 years old.

It required six men to carry it to a pickup for transportation to the biology centre. The green turtle measured 94 centimetres in length and was 83 centimetres wide.

It had injured flippers, although it limbs appeared intact, and would probably be released after recovering with treatment at the centre.

Dr Kongkiat said that the two main causes of distress and death among the region’s dugongs, dolphins, whales and turtles were fishing nets and plastic rubbish.

Sometimes four or five kilos of undigested plastic will be found in the stomach of a dead creature. Often, the monsoons battered creatures who had been injured by netting to the point where they were washed to shore.

Netting sometimes appeared as edible prey to creatures.

Vast amounts of nets, which do not deteriorate over time, trapped creatures and were posing a continuing threat, Dr Kongkiat said.

This post was first published on Wild Shores of Singapore

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