© Naturepl.com / Tony Wu / WWF
Arabian Humpback Whale

Arabian humpback whales, inhabiting the Arabian Sea, are a small sub population of humpback whales, which are most genetically distinct humpback whales and are considered to be the most isolated whale population on Earth. A population estimation study suggests that they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for perhaps 70,000 years, which is extremely unusual in a species famed for long distance migrations.

Key Facts
Common name
common name

Indian/Arabian Humpback Whale

Geographic place


The known range includes Yemen, Oman, the UAE, Iran, Pakistan and India, and possibly the Maldives and Sri Lanka.



25–30 metric tons

Latin name

scientific name

Megaptera novaeangliae




Why do they matter?


Whales play an important role in maintaining the health and balance of our oceans. They help regulate the flow of food by sustaining a stable food chain and ensuring that certain animal species do not overpopulate the ocean. By producing nutrient rich feces, whales stimulate the production and growth of phytoplankton, which is not only an essential food source for several marine animals but also plays a huge role in extracting carbon from the air and trapping it under the ocean (carbon sinking). Estimates state that as much as 400,000 tonnes of carbon are extracted from the air due to these whales each year. 

Main threats

Humpback whales are well-known to be susceptible to entanglement in fishing gear. Fishing effort off the coast of Pakistan is increasing and fishing industry in dominated by unselective fishing gear: gillnets. These set or even ghost gillnets pose an enormous threat to this sub population humpback whales. Humpbacks are also susceptible to habitat destruction because of increasing oil exploration activities. Plastic marine pollution is one of the biggest threats to these animals, they can easily ingest plastics which can clog their digestive system resulting in death in most cases. The Arabian Sea humpback whale population is small, and any human-induced mortality, especially of females, must be a concern.

© Richard Barrett / WWF-UK
What WWF-Pakistan is doing?

We are working on developing marine protected areas for conservation of Arabian humpback whales along with other marine species. We are also conducting research to better describe and understand the range and status of the population. Our work also focuses on involving communities and building their capacities particularly on sustainable fishing practices and safe release of species.