Oman Stranding Network rescues Arabian Sea humpback whale

Muscat: A dedicated team of specialists and volunteers from the Oman Stranding Network recently completed a successful rescue of an entangled Arabian Sea Humpback Whale that had become stranded off the coast of Duqm early last week. Specialists from the Environment Authority (EA), Five Oceans Environmental Services, and Future Seas, supported by the Environment Society (ESO) and the Port of Duqm, were quickly dispatched to undertake the complicated rescue effort, which was made even more challenging when the whale went missing after dark midway through the disentanglement process.

Serving as a stark reminder of the dangers of abandoned fishing gear to the marine environment, which the EA and ESO continue to highlight, the whale was found and confirmed safe and well.  Much like a human fingerprint, the markings on the tail fluke and dorsal fins on humpback whales are unique to that individual and helps researchers identify resightings. Photographs and videos taken of the whale have now been compared with the Oman cetacean Photo-ID database and it has been identified as OM11-016. This whale was first documented in 2010 in the Gulf of Masirah and was sighted again in 2011 and 2014 off Hasik and more recently in October and December 2020 off Port of Duqm.

“Arabian Sea Humpback Whales are the only non-migratory species of humpback whales and they are endemic to the Arabian Sea.  Unfortunately, we estimate that there are less than 100 remainings, so every individual is even more precious if they are to have a future.  At ESO we remain committed to educating and advocating for the adoption of practices that can better protect our fragile marine environment,” said Suaad Al Harthi, Executive Director at ESO.

“We would like to express our sincere thanks to the dedicated team of specialists who worked under the guidance of the International Whaling Commission’s Entanglement Response Network, and to the Port of Duqm, the Royal Oman Police Coastguard and the Royal Air Force Oman who all supported this effort.  Without them this mission wouldn’t have been a success,” she added.

The objective of an entanglement response is to remove all detrimental entangling gear safely from the whale, along with learning as much as possible from the entanglement to raise awareness on conservation actions designed to mitigate future incidents. Andy Willson, Founder of Future Seas and a member of the rescue team said “This mission was a great example of the collaborative partnership we have formed in Oman to support incidents of stranding and entanglement of our marine wildlife.  Under the leadership of the Environment Authority, the Oman Stranding Network is committed to ensuring that we have the knowledge and expertise to respond to such incidents. However, we cannot do this alone and we need the support of companies and individuals in Oman to help support our work through sponsorship, and in-kind donations that support the logistics of our fieldwork.  I would encourage anyone interested in supporting Oman’s conservation efforts to support Arabian Sea Humpback Whales to get in touch with ESO”.

Aida Al Jabri, Specialist of Marine Environment at the Environment Authority said, “We are pleased to lead this effort in Oman and would like to remind everyone of the shared responsibility we have to protect our oceans and the wildlife that inhabits them”.

Incidents of stranding for marine mammals can be reported to the Environment Authority’s dedicated hotline 80071999 or to ESO via any of their SM channels.

ESO has spent the last 16 years working to protect Oman’s environment and its wildlife. Aside from a variety of research and conservation projects, it continues to introduce new and innovative ways to educate and engage the local community, and affect behavioral change. As a non-profit organization, ESO relies on donations to continue its vital work, for which the current pandemic has proved a significant challenge, heavily impacting its ability to raise funds. For those that wish to contribute, various membership and support options are available to help ESO to carry on its important work, and secure Oman’s environmental health for the coming generations.