Environment Society of Oman – Projects: Marine

The seas of the Sultanate of Oman occupy an isolated corner of the Indian Ocean, where some of the world’s most varied and biologically productive waters are found. Oman’s marine environment holds a great deal of valuable natural resources, including coral communities that attract diving tourism, bountiful fish for consumption, and at least 20 species of whales and dolphins. ESO’s current marine projects focus on the protection of coral reefs and conservation-based research on whales and dolphins. A number of the ESO’s most active members also have a wealth of experience in marine and coastal research and conservation, and their work is reflected in the Education and Awareness projects of the ESO.

Daymaniyat Islands Project
Satellite Tracking Of Loggerhead Turtles
Mooring Buoys Campaign
Whale & Dolphin Research
Daymaniyat Islands Project

Aim: To survey and research the marine and terrestrial wildlife and natural resources of the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve and to assess tourism, education and training opportunities that do not conflict with conservation plans.

Issues: The Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve is Oman’s only fully marine reserve, declared by Royal Decree in 1996. The stunning marine and islands environments are still in a near-pristine condition, and support globally significant nesting sea turtles and seabirds and a range of other marine wildlife, including some of Oman’s best-developed and coral reefs. Low-level fishing pressure continues to threaten marine resources, and the Islands now face ever-increasing pressure from Oman’s rapidly expanding tourism industry. Large developments, such as Blue City, The Wave and other coastal resorts, as well as plans to develop tourism facilities on the islands themselves, require careful consideration.

Elements: In order to assess the potential for tourism, education and training possibilities, the project plans first to conduct a full survey to investigate the current condition of resources, including coral reefs, fishes, sea turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins, flora, archaeology and many other features. This will enable a better understanding of the capacity of the islands to receive and host tourists and other visitors, including for example, scientists and university/school students.

Previous surveys of the Islands were undertaken in 1986 and 1996, and so ESO survey’s during 2006 will enable some assessment of trends over three decades. Its is hoped that the project may continue into the future, providing means to strengthen the management of the reserve and allowed for the continued conservation of resources, as well as controlled use by local and visiting people. In order to achieve its aims, ESO is working in collaboration with MRMEWR, as well as scientists and conservationists from international organisations.
 

Satellite Tracking Of Loggerhead Turtles

Aim: To track the movements at the world’s largest nesting aggregation of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) on Masirah Island through use of satellite transmitters attached to the carapace of female turtles. The aim is to investigate movements of turtles during and after the nesting season, to help learn more about the characteristics of the population and migration routes. The latter will also help to reveal intersections with threats, such as those associated with fisheries, hydrocarbon exploration, shipping and coastal development activities.

Issues: Many threats to marine turtles have been documented in Oman, and turtle are facing increasing pressure as the country’s economy is being diversified away from hydrocarbon exploitation and into other industrial sectors such as the rapid expansion of the tourism industry. In parallel with this is an increase in population in coastal areas that has the potential to raise fishing pressure in coastal waters. There are therefore many challenges to the successful management of sea turtles in Oman, not least of which results from the lack of basic information about them. The loggerhead nesting population on Masirah may be both the largest and densest in the world. An increased knowledge of this population will be used to inform both national and international conservation needs, including assessments of the species’ global status.

Elements: Satellite tracking devices have been attached to 10 loggerhead turtles during August 2006 and will be used to describe the turtles’ nest site fidelity, their clutch frequency (number of nests per turtle), and their return migration to foraging (feeding) areas. An additional objective is to use measured clutch frequency with nest counts (obtained during beach surveys) to estimate the annual population of nesting loggerheads at Masirah. The turtles can be followed daily on-line at http://www.seaturtle.org.

Another element of the project is work with MRMEWR rangers to help train and develop their capacity and to generally raise awareness and understanding of turtle conservation among other government organisations and local communities. The project will also benefit the international scientific community and will include among its outputs, published results in peer reviewed journals. The main outputs of the proposed project, however is the increased understanding of loggerhead turtle reproductive movements, and its application to conservation management. The project is being run in collaboration with MRMEWR, Sultan Qaboos University, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, and IUCN – World Conservation Union.
 

Mooring Buoys Campaign

Aim: To secure mooring buoys at all known popular dive sites throughout Oman.

Issues: The diving in Oman is incredible and there are many divers that enjoy our marine environment. Unfortunately, some of the best-known dive sites in Oman do not have buoys that boats can be secured to. Instead, boats have to be anchored, quite often damaging coral reefs, which provide both food and shelter to marine life.

Elements:

  • Awareness must be raised among divers in Oman
  • Awareness must be raised among fishermen both because these mooring buoys are often stolen by them to be used as floats for fishing nets and to also stop them anchoring in areas where fragile coral reefs are known to exist
  • Posters to be put up at dive centers to promote the use of the mooring buoys and promote divers to visit sites where mooring buoys have been placed
  • Posters at all boating facilities where people have private boats, PDO, SAF, Marina, yacht club, etc.
  • Two buoys have already been made but are yet to be secured. Both fundraising and donations are necessary to continue this campaign as the cost of each buoy is quite high.
  • Media coverage is necessary both to promote the campaign and to announce our first securing of the buoy (Date TBA).

How You Can Help:

  • Fundraising and securing donations
  • Design and print posters for divers and fishermen
  • Design an awareness program for fisherman

Whale & Dolphin Research

Aim: To assist entangled or beached whales or dolphins and to learn as much as possible about the distribution and ecology of whales and dolphins in Oman, in order to protect their habitats.

Issues: Oman’s marine and coastal habitats are rapidly changing with the steady increase of fisheries, tourism and other industrial activities. These changes are likely to affect the 20 different species of whales and dolphins that inhabit Oman’s waters. It is our aim to learn about these animals in order to protect them and their habitats. Results of research are shared with government bodies in order to develop conservation strategies. They are also used in public awareness raising and educational materials, in order to teach the general public and future generations about the wealth of marine life in their waters. Research is conducted on small boats in the Muscat area, and sometimes in other coastal areas of Oman. Beach surveys for cetacean remains are also conducted on a regular basis.

Elements:

  • The Oman Whale and Dolphin Research Group (OWDRG) has been operating as an unofficial volunteer group for many years and has now become part of ESO. Please see (www.whalecoastoman.com) for more information on OWDRG.

How You Can Help:

  • Submit photographs you have taken of whales and dolphins that you have seen.

  • Report incidents of whales or dolphins in distress and tell us about any dead whales and dolphins that you have seen.

  • Assist with data entry and the management of our reference library.

  • Assist with scientific surveys (requires experience with boat-handling and a willingness to spend long hours staring at empty sea!).

  • Assist with beach surveys for cetacean remains (requires a strong stomach and an interest in examining dead whales and dolphins).

  • Assist with presentations to schools and local communities (group members can provide some presentation materials and training – but presentation or teaching experience would help).

  • Assist with translation of reports and articles into Arabic.

  • Assist in the formation of a national entanglement and stranding reporting network.

This piece is taken from the website of the Environment Society of Oman.

See on-line at: http://www.environment.org.om/projoct_marine.php

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