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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

ESO launches Unique Atlas on the Sultanate’s Whales and Dolphins
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A new e-book ‘Marine Mammal Atlas of Oman’ has been released by the Environment Society of Oman (ESO). Produced by Five Oceans Environmental Services LLC, with sponsorship from Renaissance Services SAOG and supported by the Environment Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources and the Natural History Museum, this full-colour photographic book is the culmination of 20 years of scientific research, providing a thorough geographical representation of the Arabian whales and dolphins that call the Northern Indian Ocean their home.


Making an important contribution to our understanding of Oman’s unique marine and coastal wildlife, the Atlas offers a rare insight into the Sultanate’s 20 species of cetaceans, including a description of the taxonomy, distribution, habitat preferences, feeding and breeding status, seasonality, sightings history, population status and conservation status for each species. The Atlas also provides an overview of the natural and human activities that are threatening the species and what we can do to help protect them. Photographs and maps complement the well-researched text and as a digital e-book, readers can interact and navigate through the pages without many of the limitations imposed by printed materials.


Suaad al Harthi, ESO’s Executive Director, said, “Our marine environment is one of the things that make Oman a must-visit destination, but today, it is threatened by a combination of factors. This Atlas serves as an important reference for studies on environmental diversity, but more than that, it is a great way to raise awareness and get people interested in the cause. We hope people will enjoy the beautiful photos, maps and information on whales and dolphins of Oman that have been collected over thousands of hours of research in the field, and that it also serves as a reminder of how we must prioritise the needs of the environment and remain diligent stewards of Oman’s biodiversity.”


Cetaceans, comprising whales, dolphins and porpoises have been populating the oceans for millions of years. They are long-lived, reproduce slowly and spend the majority of their lives hiding below the water’s surface. Of the 89 species of cetaceans recorded worldwide, 20 are known to occur in the highly productive waters of Oman. Divided into five chapters, the ‘Marine Mammal Atlas of Oman’ provides in-depth profiles on the species commonly found in Oman’s waters, a global overview of the threats facing cetaceans, organisations and conservation frameworks surrounding cetaceans from a multilateral and regional perspective, and the threat of specific mitigation strategies related to ship strike, noise, fishing, and whale and dolphin watching.


Stephen Thomas, Chief Executive Officer at Renaissance Services, said, “Renaissance is committed to the communities in which we serve. We have accomplished many valuable initiatives through our ongoing long-term relationship with ESO. We are proud of this Atlas, which celebrates these wonderful and endangered marine mammals, for wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy. It reminds us that we all need to play our part to protect these beautiful creatures and conserve Oman’s biodiversity.”


“Arabian whales and dolphins are among the most fascinating of the world’s cetaceans, yet also among the least understood. This e-book is the product of our years of gathering evidence, information and photographs, yet it remains one of few books on the subject of marine life in the region. The Atlas has been conceived as a tool to support resource management and unpacks a wealth of referenced information from scientific studies. Our hope is that the evidence it unveils will help marine mammals to be more fully integrated as part of Oman’s future prosperity which is tied, as it has been throughout history, to the sustainable use of the oceans,” added Rob Baldwin, CEO of Five Oceans Environmental Services LLC and one of the scientists central to whale and dolphin research in Oman over the past 30 years.


As the Sultanate’s only non-profit organisation dedicated to the environment, ESO has spent the last 17 years working to protect Oman’s environment through education, awareness and conservation. Through a variety of awareness campaigns, it has helped provide thousands of local communities with information on the principles of environmental consciousness and how they can make a positive impact around them.


‘Marine Mammal Atlas of Oman’ is freely available online on the following link: www.eso.org.om/index/images/file/2021-08/MarineMammal_2_.pdf


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