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First transoceanic crossing by Arabian Sea humpback whale recorded.

'Luban', an Arabian Sea humpback whale tagged in the Gulf of Masirah last November, has made the first recorded transoceanic crossing across the Arabian Sea. Luban is one of 14 whales tagged by the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) under the Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project, and the first tagged female, a press release said.

Dedicated studies in Oman since 2000 have established that humpback whales found off the sultanate are the only population of humpback whales in the world that does not make an annual migration between tropical and polar regions. ESO started deploying satellites on the endangered species in 2014 to monitor the movements of this isolated population, to understand their movements given that no other lines of scientific investigation linked animals observed off Oman with those sighted elsewhere in the Arabian Sea, including, Iran, Pakistan and India.

Until last week all of the tracks generated by the satellite tagging project only showed the whales moving along the southern coastline of Oman. However, Luban, a female tagged in the Gulf of Masirah in November started heading east across the Indian Ocean on November 12 and appeared on the Indian coast on December 21.

Andrew Willson, from Five Oceans Environmental Services (5OES) in Muscat, said, "The implications of this first trans-oceanic crossing reported by the tag represents a significant break-through for regional scientists who until this last week have been challenged to understand if the humpback whales observed in the Arabian sea are connected -- or reside in their own discrete areas.

"The population observed from studies off Oman since 2000 is thought to number less than 100 animals and resulted in their endangered population status under the IUCN Red list process. The fact that one female has now moved outside Omani waters during the known breeding season now makes this the-ory concerning connectively across the region more likely and a first step towards considering humpbacks in the region as a single population unit. In the long term this question may be more fully investigated through genetic studies."

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Jan 7, 2018
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