A highly-endangered female humpback whale and a small calf have been sighted one kilometre off the coast of Dubai.
The sighting is the first confirmed live record of the species for the Arabian Gulf waters of the UAE, according to marine biologist Robert Baldwin, who has studied the whales and dolphins of the UAE and Oman for many years.
The mother and calf were filmed by a local resident, with the film being posted on Instagram, state news agency WAM reported.
Whales are rarely recorded inside the Arabian Gulf, mostly only occurring when they are washed up dead on the shore. Most of these, however, are believed to be Bryde’s whales, a related species.
The announcement coincides with a talk by Baldwin and two colleagues given at the Royal Geographical Society in London this week.
Scientific research, including satellite tracking, has shown that less than 100 humpbacks survive, said Baldwin.
“Information we are gathering from these whales is providing us with invaluable knowledge about the isolation of species in a remote corner of our oceans and giving us scientific signposts towards their future survival in a rapidly developing region,” said Baldwin.
The Arabian Sea humpback whale measures up to 16 metres long and is distinguished from other whales by, among other traits, its lifestyle and song. Unlike other whales, it doesn’t migrate from warm tropical seas to polar feeding grounds, instead choosing to live year round in the warm yet rich waters off the Arabian peninsula.