North East Arabian Sea IMMA
Size in Square Kilometres
147 200 km2
Qualifying Species and Criteria
Humpback whale – Megaptera novaeangliae
Criterion A; B (2); C (2)
Blue whale – Balaenoptera musculus
Criterion A; B (2); C (2)
Dwarf sperm whale – Kogia sima
Criterion B (2)
Pygmy sperm whale – Kogia breviceps
Criterion B (2)
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin – Tursiops aduncus
Criterion B (2)
Spinner dolphin – Stenella longirostris
Criterion B (2)
Marine Mammal Diversity
Criterion D (2)
Megaptera novaeangliae, Balaenoptera musculus, Sousa plumbea, Physeter macrocephalus, Kogia sima, Kogia breviceps, Balaenoptera edeni, Tursiops aduncus, Stenella longirostris, Stenella attenuata, Steno bredanensis, Stenella coeruleoalba, Orcinus orca, Indopacetus pacificus, Ziphius cavirostris,Grampus griseus
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The North East Arabian Sea IMMA includes the coastal and offshore waters from Ormara (Pakistan) to Kutch-Saurashtra (India). This area is known for the diversity of marine mammals, including Arabian Sea humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni). Arabian Sea humpback whales form a small, isolated subpopulation that is genetically distinct from other populations of humpback whales and remains in the Arabian Sea year-round. Illegal Soviet Whaling in the 1960s, much of it concentrated in this IMMA, is thought to have greatly reduced this population, which is designated as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Systematically reported observations by fishermen in Pakistan and India indicate that the area is still used by humpback whales today. In addition, large schools of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) are frequently observed in the area.
Description of Qualifying Criteria
Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability
The blue whale has been assessed as an Endangered (EN) species by the IUCN Red List while the Arabian Sea humpback whale sub-population is considered to be endangered, relative to other surrounding populations of the species. Arabian Sea humpback whales are present throughout the year specifically seen more commonly in the area during post winter months, making them prone to entanglement in gillnets which are used in the area throughout the year especially during March and May in the area (Moazzam and Nawaz, 2018).
Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance
Sub-criterion B2: Aggregations
Presence of large whales including Arabian Sea humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) have been documented through crew-based Observer Programme of WWF-Pakistan records of 42 sightings of Arabian Sea humpback whales, 13 sightings of blue whales (Moazzam and Nawaz, 2018). In addition in 2018, a total of 13 new sightings of Arabian Sea humpback whales and 2 sightings of blue whales were made in the same area (Moazzam and Nawaz, 2019). In India, through the work of a participatory sightings network aggregations of Arabian Sea humpback whales were mainly sighted on the continental shelf and slope area along coasts of Jakhau and Veraval (Sutaria et al 2017, Sutaria 2018). Large school of dolphins can be frequently located in the area including pods of spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) are frequently reported from the area (Gore et al., 2012; Iqbal, 2014; Kiani, 2014; Kiani and Waerebeek, 2015). Entanglements of dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) and pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) have also been reported (Khan. M unpublished data), with the main aggregation of such events occurring in the major part of the area lies at the boundary of the shelf and up sloping bathymetry.
Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities
Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas
Moazzam and Nawaz (2017 and 2018) reported feeding of Arabian humpback and blue whale on planktonic shrimp and sardinillas in the coastal waters along the area. These species of whales were further hunted by the Russian fleets in 1966, who also observed such foraging in the area. Fishermen in the area today further describe foraging behaviour in aggregations of more than 10 whales in these waters (Khan. M., unpublished, Sutaria. D., unpublished). The area is also known for dense concentration of purpleback flying squids (Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis). This large squid lives in open waters from the surface of the ocean down to depths of around 1,000 m. It exhibits diurnal vertical migration and move to deeper layers and move to surface or shallower waters during night. Japanese Research vessel “R/V Shoyo Maru” during surveys in 1975 located dense concentration of this squid in the area (Yatsu, et al., 1998). Presence of sperm whale, pygmy sperm and dwarf sperm whales in the area may be attributed to their feeding on Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis.
Criterion D: Special Attributes
Sub-criterion D2: Diversity
This area is specifically known for presence of population of large whales including Arabian Sea humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni). Large school of dolphins can also be frequently located in the area, whereas individuals or small groups of Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) and Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) are also quite commonly observed in the area. Pods of spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) are frequently reported from the area, as well as rough toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) and striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), being reported from offshore of the Indus Delta. There are also reports of rare occurrences of Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and killer whale (Orcinus orca) in the areas. A few entanglements of dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) and pygmy sperm whale (K. breviceps) have also been reported from the area (Gore et al., 2012; Iqbal, 2014; Kiani, 2014; Kiani and Waerebeek, 2015; Moazzam and Nawaz, 2018; Moazzam and Nawaz, 2019).
Gore, M.A., Kinai, M.S., Ahmad, E., Hussain, B., Ormond, R. F., Siddiqui, P.J.S., Waqas, U., and Culloch, R. 2012. ‘Occurrence of whales and dolphins in Pakistan with reference to fishers’ knowledge and impacts’. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 12: 235–247.
Iqbal, P., 2014. ‘Distribution and Diversity of Organisms Along Pakistan Coast’. PhD thesis. Karachi : University of Karachi.
Kiani, M.S. 2014. ‘Studies on Marine Cetaceans in Coastal Waters of Pakistan’. PhD thesis. Karachi : University of Karachi.
Kiani, M.S., and Waerebeek, K.V. 2015. ‘A review of the status of the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) in Pakistan’. In: T.A. Jefferson and B.E. Curry (eds.) Advances in Marine Biology, Vol. 72, pp. 201-228. Oxford: Academic Press.
Mahanty, M.M., Latha, G. and Thirunavukkarasu, A. 2015. ‘Analysis of humpback whale sounds in shallow waters of the Southeastern Arabian Sea: An indication of breeding habitat’. Journal of Biosciences 40: 407-417.
Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Network of India Database – www.marinemammals.in
Mikhalev, Y.A. 1997. ‘Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae in the Arabian Sea’. Marine Ecology Progress Series 149: 13-21.
Mikhalev, Y.A., 2000. ‘Whaling in the Arabian Sea by the whaling fleets Slava and Sovetskaya Ukraina’. In Tormosov, D D., Mikhalev, Y.A.B., Zemsky, V.A., Sekiguchi, K. and Brownell. R.L. Jr, (eds.). Soviet Whaling Data [1949-1979], pp. 141-181. Moscow: Center for Russian Environmental Policy, Marine Mammal Council.
Moazzam, M. and Nawaz, R. 2017. ‘Arabian humpback and baleen whale sightings along the Pakistan coast: information generated through WWF Pakistan’s fishing crew observer programme’. International Whaling Commission. SC/67A/CMP/05: 1-14.
Moazzam, M., and Nawaz, R., 2018. ‘Using a crew-based observer programme as a platform of opportunity for understanding the distribution of whales in the Northern Arabian Sea. Results of the 2017 fishing season’. International Whaling Commission. Bled.
Moazam, M. and Nawaz, R. 2019 .The distribution of whales in the Northern Arabian Sea along the coast of Pakistan obtained through Crew-Based Observer Programme- Results of the 2018 fishing season SC/68A/CMP/07-International Whaling Commission. Nairobi.
Pomilla, C., Best, P.B. Findlay, K.P., Collins, T., Engel, M.H., Minton, G., Ersts, P.J., Barendse, J., Kotze, P.J.H., Razafindrakoto, Y. et al., 2006. ‘Population structure and sex-biased gene flow in humpback whales from Wintering Regions A, B, C, and X based on nuclear microsatellite variation. Report nr SC/A06/HW38.Population structure and sex-biased gene flow in humpback whales from Wintering Regions A, B, C, and X based on nuclear microsatellite variation’. 1-22.
Sutaria, D. 2018. ‘Update on Baleen whale records from India’. Submitted as a report to the IWC CMP Sub-Committee.
Sutaria D., Sule M., Jog K., Bopardikar I., Panicker D. 2017. ‘Baleen Whale Records from the Arabian Sea, India’. A Note Submitted to the IWC Sub-Committee. SC/67a/CMP/03.
Willson, A., Leslie, M., Baldwin, R., Cerchio, S., Childerhouse, S., Collins, T., Findlay, K., Genov, T., Godley, B. J., Al Harthi, S., Macdonald, D.W., Minton, A.G., Zerbini, A. And Witt, M.J. 2018. ‘Update on satellite telemetry studies and first unoccupied aerial vehicle assisted health assessment studies of Arabian Sea humpback whales off the coast of Oman’. Report presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Bled.
Yatsu, A., Katto, F., Kakizoe, F., Yamanaka K. and Mizuno, K. 1998. ‘Distribution and biology of Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis in the Indian Ocean-preliminary results from the research cruise of the R/V Shoyo-Maru in 1995’. In: T. Okutani, R.K. O’Dor and T. Kubodera (eds.). Recent Advances in Cephalopod Fisheries Biology. pp. 145-153.Tokyo: Tokai University Press.