Muscat – Preliminary results of a research project surveying marine mammal species in the Musandam governorate has revealed the presence of seven distinct dolphin species. These include the spinner dolphin, striped dolphin, Indian Ocean humpback dolphin, and both long-beaked and spotted common dolphins.
Aida bint Khalaf al Jabri, who leads the project team from Environment Authority (EA), informed that this study which commenced in 2023 aims to span three years. Its goal is to discern the number and distribution of marine mammals in the governorate. It will also assist in the establishment of a comprehensive database detailing marine mammal viewing sites, she stated.
Elaborating on the research methodology, Aida explained that the team covered approximately 621km during the project’s inaugural phase. Field surveys utilised a structured approach with parallel lines encircling Musandam’s National Natural Park Reserve. With each line stretching around 10km, the team successfully completed 21 such lines. This endeavour saw collaboration from various departments within the EA and the involvement of several official bodies and civil society organisations.
Aida informed that the second phase will start in the year’s final quarter. It will be preceded by workshops aimed at educating local fishermen, tourism enterprises and women’s associations about the survey’s findings. “These workshops will also aim to encourage community involvement in reporting and monitoring regional marine mammal activities.”
Highlighting the significance of multi-entity collaboration, Majid bin Ahmed al Shehhi, a specialist from the Directorate General of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, underscored the directorate’s role in emphasising the value of marine mammal conservation to local fishermen. He stressed the importance of notifying experts when any marine mammal, especially whales and dolphins, are spotted, and of recognising fishing sites that overlap with marine mammal survey areas.
Ali bin Saeed al Shehhi, from the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, emphasised the ministry’s commitment to fostering developmental projects that promote marine conservation. He said that familiarising tourists with marine life conservation efforts is vital, urging them to enjoy marine activities like diving and kayaking without disturbing the ecosystem.
Many marine mammals are at risk. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List cites six marine mammal species in Musandam’s waters as endangered.