SnotBot goes to Oman!

Oman, officially the Sultanate of Oman, is a country located in West Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of the Persian Gulf. It shares land borders with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, while sharing maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan. The capital and largest city is Muscat. Oman has a population of 5,492,196. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast, and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast.

An Ocean Alliance team is at present working in Oman as part of a research program trying to understand and protect the critically endangered Arabian Sea humpback whale. This population is unique because they are non-migratory; they have been separated from other humpback whales for about 70,000 years.

“The project is a large collaboration among several Omani government and nonprofit organizations and international partners, and involves collecting a lot of different data. Robotics Manager Chris Zadra and Science Manager Andy Rogan arrived in Oman last week, and Andy sent a quick update:

The research program is taking place in a remote part of the Omani desert under tough conditions. The team are camping and have no dock, meaning they have to shuttle all of the equipment to and from the research vessels every day. The Arabian desert sun is also notoriously hot – making working conditions even more challenging.

Our team is helping the group deploy data-tags on the whales. In this area there is heavy fishing activity – which poses a grave danger to the whales in the form of nets and potential ship strikes. Data tags might give us better information of the diving behavior of these whales during day and night. This could help us understand the threat of entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes better, and potentially allow us to mitigate the threat they both pose to the whales.

The expedition is in its first few days. We have already managed to deploy a data-tag on one of the whales. This is the first data-tag that has ever been deployed on this population, which is very exciting. The total lack of data-tag data on this population makes the data we have collected absolutely priceless. We will keep you updated as the expedition goes on!

Andy”

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