Strong winds and tides caused the deaths of a number of dolphins in Ras Al-Shabaan region, 35 kilometers south of Umluj governorate, while dozens more were rescued and returned to their natural habitat in the Red Sea.
Members of the Saudi Border Guard and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, with a number of volunteers, participated in the rescue operation.
“A man from the village spotted the dolphins nearby and reported the incident to us, a group of 14 people. We rushed to the place right away,” said Mohammed Nami Al-Hamdi, one of the rescuers in Ras Al-Shabaan.
He added: “We saw the dolphins on Wednesday at 8 a.m. and we were able to save about 40, while seven others died because they were too far from us.”
Dr. Lafi Saed Al-Sulami, a lecturer in marine biology of the Faculty of Marine Sciences at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), said: “A number of dolphins got stranded on the beaches of Umluj governorate due to natural factors, after the sea level decreased due to the ebbing tide, which caused shallow waters and prohibited the dolphins from going back out to sea.”
Al-Sulami, a specialist in marine fisheries management, told Arab News that the deaths of some of the dolphins was because their bodies could not sustain the pressure resulting from stranding. “Dolphins might get stranded on a beach either because they were running from a predator, or while in search of prey,” he added.
Stranding might also occur due to an attempt by a pod to save a trapped individual, or due to misdirection leading them to shallow waters.
Al-Sulami pointed out that what happened in Umluj would require investigation and research to establish the real reason why the dolphins were stranded.
“Based on the published photos, the dolphins were spinner dolphins, and are between 129-235 centimeters long, weigh between 23-79 kilograms, and are prey for sharks,” he said.
“Unlike sharks, dolphins are human friendly and as far as we know, they have never shown hostile behavior towards humans, especially in their habitats where they feed and breed,” he added.
There are around 40 different species of dolphin around the world, eight of which can be found in the Red Sea, according to Dr. Mamdouh Al-Harbi, assistant professor specializing in fish farming and cultivation at KAU’s department of marine biology.
He pointed out that dolphins are intelligent and social animals, though they have poor sight and depend on sounds to determine their directions, noting that they have strong and flexible muscles that help them swim for long distances.
“Rough-toothed and bottlenose dolphins are the most common species in the Red Sea. They are distinguished by their black backs and white abdomens,” he added.