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UAE: On the trail of dolphins, porpoises

Neeraj Murali/Dubai
Filed on April 13, 2021
Dr Ada Natoli (L) founder and director of the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative briefing the team on the boat during Dubai Dolphin Survey 2021-22 along the coastal waters of Dubai to map the dolphin population. KT Photo by Neeraj Murali

Experts successfully record five sightings of nearly threatened Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.


Pods of dolphins — some considered threatened species — would usually swim through the coastal waters of Dubai. And for this year’s Dolphin Day, being observed today, a crew of experts took to the waters to check on them.

Khaleej Times hopped on board the boat of the team — comprising experts from the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative, Atlantis, The Palm, F3 Marine and Zayed University, — as they cruised off the coast for the Dubai Dolphin Survey 2021-22.

As they surveyed 1,000sqkm of Dubai’s coastal waters, the team has successfully recorded five sightings of nearly threatened Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and three sightings of the rare and elusive Indo-Pacific finless porpoise. There were a host of other marine animals, too, like turtles, sea snakes and cormorants.

Headed by Dr Ada Natoli founder and director of the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative, the group aimed to gather baseline scientific information about the local dolphin population off the emirate’s coast.

The last survey of its kind was conducted eight years ago and, now, with a collaborative effort, the project continues. The previous survey confirmed the presence of two species of dolphins: The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the Indian Ocean Humpback dolphin, and one porpoise, the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise — all considered threatened. The species were identified using photos of the dolphin’s dorsal fins.

With all the data they have gathered, researchers now have a more accurate idea of dolphins’ residency and population size in Dubai. The survey also aimed to collect information about currents and frequency of marine life, which will then be fed into a much-broader database that can help conservation measures for various species and the marine ecosystem as a whole.

The rest of the coastal waters in UAE are in need of more scientific data to understand their marine life, according to the researchers.

neeraj@khaleejtimes.com





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