Feature » Fujairah Whale and Dolphin Research Project Aerial Survey

Fujairah Whale and Dolphin Research Project Aerial Survey

bowriding bottlenose dolphins[2] jpgIn March 2018 a team from the Fujairah Whale and Dolphin Research Project funded by the office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, the Crown Prince of Fujairah,  took to the skies to continue their scientific study of marine mammals in waters off Fujairah. The team flew systematic aerial survey lines across Fujairah’s offshore waters in a helicopter for three days with the objective to map out the distribution of marine mammals in Fujairah, estimate their population numbers, record their behavior and document diversity. 


The team encountered groups of marine mammals on 18 separate occasions over the three days of surveys, including several species of dolphins and a fleeting glimpse of a large whale. The most numerous were active pods of bottlenose dolphins and long-beaked common dolphins which were mostly seen offshore, but were also found in shallower waters closer to shore. Deep diving dolphins, such as the Risso’s dolphins, were also seen, including pods of up to 200 individuals. The highlight of the trip was the discovery of rough-toothed dolphins, a rarely seen species that has never been recorded in U.A.E waters before. This adds to the list of new records for the country, with striped dolphins and spotted dolphins having been discovered during boat surveys last year.


The aerial survey was designed to be repeatable as the results are likely to vary seasonally and between years. Over time, however, and coupled with other research techniques, aerial surveys will enable estimation of population parameters and the potential to monitor the status and trend of marine mammals over the long-term. 


Other methods that the team will be using include vessel-based surveys to collect photographic and acoustic data, including for use in photo-identification studies, as well as collection of tissue samples for future analysis of DNA to build a genetic profile of the marine mammals of Fujairah. All such work will gradually build a picture that will help the team evaluate not just the scientific status and conservation needs of marine mammals but also their potential value to the tourism industry, and how we can make use of them for the education of current and future generations of people. 


The team can be followed via facebook, instagram and twitter social media channels and welcomes all comments. Please see www.fujairahwhales.com for more information.

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