Whale vomit: UMT receives sample from fisheries department

Whale vomit: UMT receives sample from fisheries department

KUALA TERENGGANU: Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) will perform an analysis on a substance which is claimed to be whale vomit or ambergris that was found by a woman in Marang, near here, recently.

UMT Centre of Research Field Service (PPPL) director Associate Prof Dr Hasrizal Shaari said the centre had received a sample of the substance from the Terengganu Fisheries Department.

“We received the four-gramme sample last night and the result of the analysis will be known in a week.

“This is in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UMT and the Fisheries Department to always co-operate on matters pertaining to threatened marine and marine species,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Last Tuesday (Dec 14), the media reported that a woman from the district of Kemaman, Terengganu, had found an object which was believed to be whale vomit while fishing near the Marang Malaysia Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) jetty last November.

Subsequently, the State Fisheries Department took a sample of the substance for a study to determine if it was actually whale vomit or just a lump of wave-borne waste.

UMT is the only university in Malaysia that can verify the authenticity of the ambergris samples based on PPPL’s expertise which is also assisted by experts at UMT’s Faculty of Marine Science and Environment and Plymouth University in England.

Ambergris is a dense, waxy and flammable material of dull grey or blackish colour. The secretions of the bile ducts produce this valuable substance found in the digestive system of sperm whales.

Perfume makers highly value ambergris as a fixative that allows the aroma of perfume to last longer, however, the difficulty of obtaining ambergris has resulted in most of it now being replaced by synthetic ambroxide.

High quality whale vomit will have active materials comprising three main items, namely, ambrein (25-45 per cent), epicoprosterol (30-40 per cent) and coprostanone (three to four per cent).

According to UMT’s record, 18 samples of objects, which were allegedly whale vomit, had been studied to date, but all did not have the three items and did not have any market value.

He said many people were impatient to know whether the item found by the woman was genuine whale vomit or otherwise, adding he was also excited to conduct the analysis.-Bernama