Marine scientists discover rare breed of whales

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Old 20-Apr-2011
Marine scientists discover rare breed of whales

UNP ImageMuscat: A group of Humpback whales endemic to the Arabian Sea is the only known population in the world that does not migrate, instead spending its entire lifetime in the same waters, according to research carried out by Oman-based marine expert Robert Baldwin.

The Environment Society of Oman (ESO) and Baldwin, working on field research for the Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project, have recorded whale songs, behavioural patterns, DNA samples and over 10,000 photographs of this unique marine mammal in their research trips.

Their effort has been instrumental in pointing out this genetically unique and isolated population of whales, who have recently been given the official name of the Arabian Sea Humpback Whale by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The only known population in the world not to migrate, the Arabian Sea Humpbacks breed and feed in the same geographic area. "This is an exciting scientific finding which has triggered international media and expert interest," Baldwin said in a press release issued by the ESO on Tuesday..
Arabian Sea Humpback Whale

"Not only are these whales distinct in this regard, but our recent research also indicates they are one of the smallest and potentially most vulnerable whale populations in the world," he said.

"Oman's marine life features some of the most impressive of the country's natural resources and careful planning and management is needed to ensure that development does not have a lasting negative impact," felt Baldwin.

He said decision makers require rigorous scientific information on the habitats and populations they are trying to protect in order to plan effective conservation strategies.

"Hosting a unique population of whales is certainly something for Oman to be proud of and is of significant scientific, conservation and tourism value," said Lamees Daar, Executive Director of ESO.

The Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project is deploying a variety of methods to learn more about the distribution, abundance, habitat use, population characteristics, and potential threats to these marine species throughout Oman's coastal waters.

Not only will this wealth of scientific information help to preserve the unique whale species, but it will also materialise into guidelines for eco-tourism and other economic verticals, and be documented for Oman's future marine studies and museums.

"It is vital to gain local support to sustain the habitat of the Arabian Sea Humpback if we are to ensure its future survival," said marine scientist Andrew Wilson, who manages operations of the Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project.

Wilson has built relationships with several local fishermen to engage them in the research and importance of the project.

According ESO, the findings will help attract international support in conserving the habitat and sustainability of these magnificent animals.

The Arabian Sea Humpback whales are found in the northern part of the Arabian Sea ranging from the coast of India, through Pakistan to that of Oman. The biggest and most substantial population makes its habitat in Omani waters.

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