The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) will hold its 14th Conference of Parties in Uzbekistan from 12-17 February, 2024 Document UNEP/CMS/COP14/Doc.32.2.3 contains a progress report on the Concerted Action for Arabian Sea humpback whales, and a proposal to extend the Action for the next three years. Why is this important?
Context and progress
The Concerted Action for Arabian Sea humpback whales (ASHW) was first endorsed by the CMS Conference of Parties in 2017 and was extended in 2020. Since that time, considerable progress has been made in the three main categories of Action: 1) addressing knowledge gaps; 2) information sharing and awareness raising; and 3) Capacity building and implementation of threat mitigation strategies. Highlights include:
- Consolidation of the Arabian Sea Whale Network, a collaborative network of researchers and conservation organisations in almost all ASHW range countries.
- Continued research off Oman including satellite tagging, photo-identification, assessment of health and body condition using drones, and photo-based health assessment and ship-strike risk assessment.
- Passive acoustic monitoring off the coasts ofOman and India providing evidence of whale presence, song structure, and exchanges across the Arabian Sea.
- Growing citizen science reporting networks in the UAE, Pakistan, India, and Iran.
- Regional collaboration on ASHW publications, work with port authorities and the World Shipping Council, and ongoing collaboration with the IWC.
Why an Extension is needed
ASHW are isolated from other humpback whale populations in the Indian Ocean. However, satellite tagging, acoustic data, and photographic matches provide evidence that there is movement between Arabian Sea range countries. Threats to this Endangered population’s continued survival also span political borders, and can only be effectively addressed through collaborative measures from government and industry decision makers. The CMS Concerted Action, from the time of its conception in 2017 was intended to culminate in the development and implementation of a regional Conservation Management Plan, led by government stakeholders, and jointly implemented under the CMS and the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Members of the Arabian Sea Whale Network have been able to progress research and conservation measures at local and sometimes national scales, and implement many of the activities that would be included in a CMP. However, the CMP itself has not yet been established. A recent workshop in Oman, continued involvement from the IWC and other signs indicate that this goal should be achievable in the next triennium if the extension of the Concerted Action is endorsed during COP 14.
Click here to download a Factsheet that can be used to support outeach to decision makers involved in the CMS COP and/or regional conservation measures for Arabian Sea humpback whales.