Oman Cetacean Research and Conservation Activities Status Update 2022
Andrew Willson, Karthik Ashok, Robert Baldwin, Salvatore Cerchio, Fredrik Christensen, Tim Collins, Aida al Jabri, Rabab al Lawati, Matthew Leslie, Gianna Minton, Marie-Francoise Van Bressem, Sabrina al Riyami, Maia Sarrouf Willson
Marine mammal research was initiated in Oman in the mid 1980s, with formal vessel-based research starting in 2000, focused on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) of the Arabian Sea. These efforts resulted in the description of an isolated population of humpback whales estimated to number fewer than 100 individuals based on studies conducted off the coast of Oman. The small population size together with documentation of escalating threats throughout the region have been key elements forming the research and conservation agenda. The work includes a focus on generating metrics to track the health and status of the population and identifying and evaluating threats. Research is complemented by outreach activities and the development of capacity for local institutions to engage in management efforts. This report provides updates on activities from May 2021 through March 2022, including studies on body condition and visual health assessment work, and progress with deployments and analysis of passive acoustic monitoring units. It also documents successes with the translation of research into science communication documents, including the Marine Mammal Atlas of Oman and Protecting Blue Corridors report and the advocacy of efforts to communicate ship strike risk assessments to local authorities. Recent funding secured for trainees in field research, advocacy and outreach in 2022/2023 will further help to ensure that research results obtained to date are translated into effective conservation management. The document also reflects the positive influence of IWC SC recommendations and funding support for addressing the important components required for management of cetaceans in the Sultanate of Oman.