The UAE's dolphins remain mysterious and little-studied. "On a scale of one to ten, we know one," says Robert Baldwin, a marine mammal researcher.

Bottle-nose dolphin.

"Basically, we have identified most of the species," he says. "But we have little idea of numbers, no idea of when they breed, no idea of what they are feeding on and no idea of their movements."

in the UAE

However, what little we do know is not encouraging. A survey in 1986, followed by a census in Abu Dhabi waters in 1999, recorded a 71 per cent drop in numbers.

"It is a very, very dramatic decline," says Baldwin. "Nobody can offer a scientifically valid explanation."

As well as the most common dolphins — the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin — other UAE sea mammals include the finless porpoise, long-beaked common dolphin, spinner dolphin, pantropical spotted dolphin, false killer whale, killer whale, bryde's whale and blue whale.