The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has announced that the local population of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins is the largest in the world.
The agency’s Dolphin Survey, which has tracked 5,592km of Abu Dhabi coastline over the past few years, revealed that the capital is home to around 701 Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, significantly more than the second largest population of 466 found in South Africa.
Photographs taken of the dolphins by the research team are stored and compared on a digital database, allowing them to identify individuals and monitor population changes and patterns in the coming years.
“Unique marks on the dorsal fin allow us to identify dolphins,” explains Edwin Mark Grandcourt, section manager of marine assessment and conservation at EAD.
“This method is called mark recapture and through these natural marks we’re able to make an estimate of the population size and their distribution.”
However, it isn’t all good news as the research has also shown that human interaction is harming the species. But researchers hope that the plight of the dolphins might help to inspire conservation efforts.
“What we’ve found is that eight percent of the adult dolphins we identified have got scars on them consistent with a pattern that indicates that they’ve had contact with a propeller of a boat,” Edwin continues.
“A further four percent have scars derived from entanglement in fishing nets.”
Dolphins aren’t the only ones threatened by human activity though.
Recent results of the 2017 Regional Red List, published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, indicates that 153 species of chondrichthyan fishes – sharks, rays and chimaeras – in Arabian waters are some of the most threatened in the world.
“If we work to conserve their habitat, the dolphin population and the populations of many other species like sea turtles and dugongs, will also benefit.
“As an apex predator and an umbrella species, there is a tremendous opportunity for inspiring conservation because of people’s affinity and affection for dolphins.”
For more information, visit: ead.ae