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Experts call for action to save endangered Arabian Sea Humpback Whales

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Oman provides essential habitat for nearly 20 species of Arabian Sea Humpback Whales (ASHW) on Omani shores, which are facing a large-scale extinction, and action needs to be taken to preserve them, according to experts.

National and international experts and policymakers attending the two-day workshop to discuss the protection of these mammals opined that recommendations for collaborative measures to help conserve this endangered species are the need of the hour.

The ASHW is one of 20 species of marine mammal, aka cetaceans, found in Oman’s waters and is one of the four species of great whales found in the Sultanate of Oman. These four are ASHW, Northern Indian Ocean blue whale, Bryde’s whale and sperm whale.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified ASHW as endangered on the Red List of threatened species in 2008 (although evidence suggests this categorisation should be amended to Critically Endangered).

“ASHW is one of the endangered species and a small population could be pushed to the brink of extinction if threats are not addressed, which could result in an ecological imbalance in our marine environment,” said Ahmed bin Said al Shukaili, Director of Marine Conservation Department at the Environment Authority (EA).

The major threats to this unique species include collisions with ships, noise pollution, whale and dolphin watching tourism and entanglement in fishing nets. There is an urgent need to collectively mitigate these risks.

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“Sustainable conservation measures incorporating a cross-cutting approach are required to mitigate the threats to the survival of this unique species. During our workshop, we discussed how various government and industry stakeholders could work together to develop a local Conservation Management Plan considering lessons learned from a global perspective, as well as ways in which Oman can collaborate with other countries within the Arabian Sea humpback range to promote regional conservation measures,” said Her Highness Sayyidah Tania al Said, President of the ESO.

“We would like to acknowledge the support of HSBC Oman, the Environment Authority, as well as all our other partners, for helping us bring more attention to the endangered Arabian Sea humpback whale and call for collective action to help protect the species,” she added.

The workshop included discussions on how to design and implement Conservation Management Plans (CMP), which aim to minimise the threat to Arabian Sea humpback whales and other marine life.

“This workshop is part of a wider conservation and capacity-building programme that supports the conservation of Arabian Sea humpback whales. The programme supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal agenda in developing capacity for climate change mitigation. We are happy to renew our established relationship with The Environment Society of Oman in this project, which will provide a valuable opportunity to support the next generation of marine researchers and activists,” said Melika Betley, CEO of HSBC Oman. Organised in a collaboration between the Environment Authority (EA) and the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), with funding provided by HSBC Oman, the event was brought together to encourage collective responsibility and further actions that could lead to a safer habitat for the regionally endangered species.


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