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EA tracks Arabian Sea humpback whale to study behaviour

24 Dec 2023 EA tracks Arabian Sea humpback whale to study behaviour By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – The Environment Authority (EA) has recently conducted a study -tracking an Arabian Sea humpback whale – to understand the movements and behaviour of this whale species in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Al Wusta governorate.

The study – named the Arabian Sea Humpback Whale Tracking Project – was carried out via satellite “using many available research tools to understand the behavioural pattern and movements of other sea animals as well, which are either threatened or are in an urgent need of conservation and management”, said a member of the authority.

The notable methods used in the study include satellite telemetry, mapping of the distribution of threats and risks, audio monitoring, and the use of a drone for monitoring, sampling, and other measurements, the EA member added.

A team from EA recorded 11 sightings of a humpback whale, four sightings of a Bryde’s whale, and one sighting of an Indian Ocean humpback dolphin.

“The study was held to assess the risks of bycatch and mitigate ship accidents, while learning more about whale migration paths and habitats and drawing accurate data and a map for them.”

The EA team carried out the study specifically in the Masirah Bay via satellite during the mating season this year. 

It was done in cooperation with a group of internationally accredited experts and the Ocean Alliance to install tracking devices with visible sensors.

Experts from EA and the Future Seas Company are carrying out the field work and data analysis.

Previous studies in the same field showed that the humpback whales are in fact a resident species that stays in its habitat near the Omani coast.

This is in complete contrast to other whale species that spend their lives wandering, due to the seasonal climatic conditions and visit the southern waters of Oman with diverse food sources available throughout the year.

In the latest study, ‘the team – consisting of experts – installed a tracking chip on one of the Arabian Sea humpback whales, which had been spotted first time in November last year in the same area’.

The Environment Authority said the tracking of the whale helped them understand its behaviour and movements, while knowing its location with an accuracy of up to some hundreds of metres up to five times per day’.

The team has installed four devices with additional sensors of 8 hours of lifespan to record the whale’s diving characteristics. The Arabian Sea humpback whale is considered the most unique and rare sea animal, with only about 100 of them seen so far.

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