Humpback whale photo-ID matching
The Consortium is currently working with Wild Me on the improvement of Flukebook, an online matching platform that will enable Consortium members to store and compare their humpback whale photo-IDs online.
One of the priority actions of the Consortium is to address population structure and abundance of humpback whales at regional scale. Population structure can be best investigated through a number of innovative research techniques including natural marking (photographic and genetic) and satellite tagging. These techniques provide information about connections between breeding sites, links between breeding and feeding grounds, and have proved to be powerful tools to provide abundance estimates. Large datasets—especially photo-identification datasets—have been created and updated in the last decade by different organizations in the region, but little effort has been made to match the catalogues.
One of the most challenging issues of humpback whale photo-ID matching is how to match such a large volume of data, scattered across organizations, and spread over large geographic areas. The Consortium’s members have agreed that the best way to do this would be to develop and use a common matching platform in the South-western Indian Ocean (SWIO).
Flukebook is a web platform that provides researchers with the advanced tools needed for scientific analysis and transboundary collaboration. Researchers have access to data management tools; photo-matching algorithms and a global catalog of individuals; and connectivity to common analytical software for mark-recapture; genetic, and socio-ecological studies. At the research level, data sharing is accomplished on a peer-approval basis which leads to growing inclusiveness. Flukebook acts as a unifying tool, filling gaps in species distribution, individual movements, social associations and genetic structure.
This is why the Consortium and Wild Me are currently working together to integrate and improve upon Flukebook to meet the Consortium’s needs and enable its members to successfully collaborate online. The platform should be online and running in 2018.
Flukebook is powered by the Wildbook Platform which was developed by WildMe.
The improvements to the existing tool are funded for the Consortium by the Indian Ocean Commission and the French Facility for Global Environment.
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Important Marine Mammals Areas
In early December 2019, scientists announced the approval of 37 new Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) in one of the more ecologically rich, yet conservation challenged areas of the world ocean—the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas. Indocet members were fully invloved in this process.
The new IMMAs highlight key habitats for various threatened marine mammal species, including endangered Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, and the threatened dugong. IMMAs are an important first step toward greater protection efforts, including in some cases, the establishment of marine protected areas.
Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) are defined as discrete portions of habitat, important for one or several marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. IMMAs are identified through a carefully planned process in which experts are convened in regional workshops to collate and assess all the information about marine mammal habitat in that region. The process draws from published and unpublished sources, often precipitating the most comprehensive review of marine mammal distribution and habitat use in the chosen region. Each proposed area of interest is assessed based purely on biocentric criteria , that fall into four main categories: (1) Species or Population Vulnerability, (2) Distribution and Abundance (small resident population, Large aggregation), (3) Life Cycle Activities (Breeding habitat, Feeding habitat, migration routes) (4) Special Attributes (distinctiveness, diversity).
Once submitted, each IMMA proposal undergoes a critical scientific review by at least two independent reviewers, much like the submission process of peer-reviewed scientific journals. Only proposed areas that can fully demonstrate fulfillment of at least one criteria attain full IMMA status, after which point they are published on the eAtlas, and can be used in conservation planning by a variety of stakeholders. It is hoped, for example, that industry can use this information to either avoid IMMAs or effectively mitigate the impact of any of their planned activities in them, and that governments can use IMMAs to help guide their deliberations on where to place marine protected areas or other coastal zone management efforts.
The IMMA process for the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas was launched in 2019. A regional workshop took place on March 4th-8th 2019, in Salalah, Oman, and involved 38 marine mammal scientists and observers from 15 countries, with several more scientists contributing to assessments and proposals remotely. The IMMAs identified as a result of these workshops and subsequent independent review can now be viewed on an IMMA eAtlas. Efforts to use these IMMAs to guide effective conservation measures are already underway, with the example of a recent implementation visit to Bazaruto Archipelago to Inhambane Bay Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA), Mozambique in November 2019.
The 37 IMMAs in the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas were identified for the Arabian Sea humpback whales, Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, high cetacean species diversity, dugong aggregations, concentrations of Omura’s whale, as well as three different populations of blue whales.
- Aldabra Atoll IMMA
- Bazaruto Archipelago and Inhambane Bay IMMA
- Cape Coastal Waters IMMA
- Comoros Island Chain and Adjacent Reef Banks IMMA
- Dhofar IMMA
- Farasan Archipelago IMMA
- Greater Pemba Channel IMMA
- Gulf of Kutch IMMA
- Gulf of Masirah and Offshore Waters IMMA
- Gulf of Salwa IMMA
- Indus Estuary and Creeks IMMA
- Kisite-Shimoni IMMA
- Lakshadweep Archipelago IMMA
- Lamu Offshore IMMA
- Madagascar Central East Coast IMMA
- Maldives Archipelago and Adjacent Oceanic Waters IMMA
- Mascarene Islands and Associated Oceanic Features IMMA
- Menai Bay IMMA
- Miani Hor IMMA
- Mozambique Coastal Breeding Grounds IMMA
- Muscat Coastal and Shelf Waters IMMA
- Nakhiloo Coastal Waters IMMA
- North East Arabian Sea IMMA
- Northern Gulf and Confluence of the Tigris, Euphrates and Kuran IMMA
- Northern Red Sea Islands IMMA
- North West Madagascar and North East Mozambique Channel IMMA
- Oman Arabian Sea IMMA
- Seychelles Plateau and Adjacent Oceanic Waters IMMA
- Shelf Waters of Southern Madagascar IMMA
- Sindhudurg-Karwar IMMA
- South East African Coastal Migration Corridor IMMA
- . South West Madagascar and Mozambique Channel IMMA
- Southern Coastal Shelf Waters of South Africa IMMA
- Southern Egyptian Red Sea Bays, Offshore Reefs and Islands IMMA
- Southern Gulf and Coastal Waters IMMA
- Toliara, St. Augustine Canyon and Anakao IMMA
- Watamu-Malindi and Watamu Banks IMMA