ASWN Aims and Needs

clean-white-flukes-and-duqm-cliffs

Humpback whale off the coast of Oman

The Arabian Sea Whale Network (ASWN) aims to bring researchers and other stakeholders together to collaborate on a regional level toward conservation of whales in the Arabian Sea.  One of the most important elements of this collaboration is the regular exchange of information between members through emails, newsletters, and this website.  The network also works to ensure that various international bodies are aware of new developments in the region, and that they take Arabian Sea whale conservation issues into account in their policies and decision making processes.  Furthermore, the network supports individual members in their local and national research and awareness raising efforts.

But to have a truly positive impact on whale conservation in the region, the ASWN needs funding to support for a series of planned activities that fall under three  main categories:

  1. Addressing knowledge gaps
  • The development of a marine mammal reporting smartphone App and citizen science tools, to allow the crews of fishing, coast guard and whale-watch vessels and ferries to record and report whale and dolphin observations.
  • Collaborative boat-based research to continue photo-identification studies, collect genetic samples, and identify critical habitat. The involvement of local scientists in this research will build capacity for future conservation in the region.
  • Use of passive acoustic recorders to detect the presence of whales and monitor human introduced noise in areas that are logistically difficult or dangerous to survey.
  • Genetic analysis of samples collected from strandings and during dedicated whale surveys to determine whether Arabian Sea humpback whales comprise a new sub-species.

2. Information sharing and awareness raising

  • The development of a regional shared online data platform to promote standardization, comparability and timely analyses of data collected throughout the region. This will be used to facilitate the creation of sensitivity maps and assist stakeholders in the design of local, national and regional conservation strategies, including protected areas.
  • An improved website that provides a portal to the shared database (see above), informs the general public of whale conservation needs, and provides members with a range of outreach tools to engage governments and other stakeholders in their

3. Capacity building and development and implementation of mitigation strategies

  • Organization of targeted regional workshops, meetings and training opportunities that will involve local and national government agencies as well as young scientists, build capacity and develop multi-stakeholder mitigation strategies and conservation measures in key range states.
  • Replication of ship strike mitigation strategies from Oman, and by-catch mitigation from Pakistan to other parts of the Arabian Sea.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, you can find a brief summary of the network’s aims and funding needs here: Three page summary of ASWN Aims and Needs

ASWN members have a proven track record in conservation based research, awareness–raising, and development and implementation of multi-stakeholder mitigation measures:

  • Members in Oman are implementing photo-identification, genetic, acoustic, and satellite tagging studies of humpback whales, and using results for mitigation strategies and to engage the public in whale conservation. Mitigation efforts include work with government and industry stakeholders to mitigate the risk of ship strike and to ensure that offshore  seismic surveys adhere measures to minimize disturbance to whales.
  • Members in Pakistan have launched a successful programme to collect data from fishermen and help them to mitigate fisheries bycatch and release whales, dolphins and turtles accidentally caught in their nets.
  • Members in India, Iran, Oman and Pakistan are engaged in community outreach and education programmes, working with fishermen and forming effective stranding networks to free live stranded animals and collect data and precious biological samples from stranded whales all over the country.

The network’s first and second newsletters include details of some of these efforts. All of these activities are endorsed and encouraged by a global network of whale research and conservation experts associated with the IUCN, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS). These organisations all formally recognize the precarious conservation status of whales in the Arabian Sea.