A nationwide research project is harnessing the power of the Abu Dhabi community to provide crucial data on the conservation of key marine species and the ocean habitat.
The UAE Dolphin Project, established in 2012, is a non-profit organisation that studies the incidence of the creatures in UAE waters to establish approximate population growth and decline with a pioneering study.
With community members reporting 500 cetacean sightings to date on its website, the organisation recently launched a land-based survey on Saadiyat Island, where trained volunteers have spent 63 hours surveying the UAE’s coastline.
“In terms of the impact of citizen science in the UAE, we’re seeing the number of sightings reported increasing steadily,” Dr Ada Natoli, founder of the UAE Dolphin Project, told us. “These are important because they provide us with crucial information on where dolphins occur.”
With 11 species of dolphins and whales sighted in Gulf waters, the reported sightings by the community mean that Dr Natoli and her team have more information of what’s going on beneath the waves.
“Dolphins and sharks sit at the top of the marine food chain, so that means they can be used as an ecological indicator,” explained Dr Natoli.
“This means they can tell us if something goes wrong in the whole marine food chain, and this gives us an indication of how the marine environment is doing overall.
“There’s not a lot of data to support how our marine environment here is doing, but with the exponential development of this region and overfishing, it’s likely that the marine environment is facing some challenges, as well as all of its species, and there is still not enough research ongoing on many marine species to support their conservation,” Dr Natoli reflected. “No effort to protect our marine species is wasted.”
To get involved or report a sighting, visit: uaedolphinproject.org