UAE | General

Atlantis: Free Sammy the Shark

Atlantis hotel is being urged to release a captured whale shark by environmentalists as the fish has been put in an aquarium in the resort without proper international permission.

  • By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 23:26 October 7, 2008
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied photo
  • The hotel already has permits to house around twenty wild-caught dolphins.
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Dubai: Atlantis hotel is being urged to release a captured whale shark by environmentalists as the fish has been put in an aquarium in the resort without proper international permission.

Ebrahim Al Zu'bi, advisor to the Emirates Diving Association, said he believed the shark would be tagged and released.

Video: Watch Sammy circling in her tank

Local media reports said that hotel manager Alan Leibman claimed that there are no such plans and the whale shark will stay in the hotel.

"I was told it would be released so I will be very disappointed if it isn't, I hope that they will rethink their decision," said Al Zu'bi, previously involved in whale shark tagging programmes in the Indian Ocean.

The juvenile whale shark placed in Atlantis hotel aquarium on Palm Jumeirah is there illegally, according to international standards, as the hotel resort has not applied for the appropriate permit to keep the wild-caught fish, Gulf News has learnt.

Not endangered

When an animal such as a whale shark is either beached or rescued and removed from the ocean, the concerned authorities need to be made aware so a permit can be issued.

According to an animal non-governmental organisation linked to the Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) authority at the Ministry of Environment and Water, no such permit has been issued.

"As far as we know there is no permit issued from the CITES office in Dubai," said the CITES-linked source.

"This hotel for example, has the right to rescue an animal but they need a permit to keep it and they have to inform the authorities. The whole country knows there is a whale shark at this hotel but we have not been officially made aware of it."

Whale sharks are listed on appendix two of CITES which means they are not an endangered species but permission is needed to remove them from the ocean. No comment was available from Atlantis at any time.

Gulf News reported last month that the Atlantis resort, which already has permits to house around twenty wild-caught dolphins, received the whale shark after fishermen found it struggling in shallow waters and brought it to the hotel to recover.

The hotel said in a statement at the time that due to the high sea temperature and salinity of the water where the whale shark was found, the decision was made to transport the whale shark to Atlantis for medical care and observation.

According to the resort, the animal is being monitored 24 hours a day to gather data on swim patterns, feeding and behaviours.

This hotel for example, has the right to rescue an animal but they need a permit to keep it and they have to inform the authorities."

The plight of Sammy has generated huge interest in the UAE and beyond, with a Facebook group being set up in her honour. The group currently has over 500 members and the number is fast rising.

Should Sammy the Shark be freed? Do you support the Shark's release? What action can be taken? Tell us by filling in the form below to send your comments.

Your comments

Those who feel the shark is alright in the aquarium, I request them to lock themselves up in a room for a few years and see what comes out of them.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 17:14

Please release Sammy, he belongs in the ocean, not in an aquarium. I've seen him, its far too small in there for him.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 17:06

Gulf News has repeatedly denied print ink to my two bits on everything Dubai. If you go soft on matters that affect everyday lives of men, dignity of men and now, the right to free existence of animals then your paper needs to rethink its core objectives. Do not glorify anything beyond what's necessary and only then should you celebrate 30 years of breakthrough reporting. I'd say, free all the fish. But one look at the local zoo and the Atlantis seems like paradise. So makes you wonder, does Dubai really have a heart bigger than the size of a wallet?
Posted: October 08, 2008, 15:07

If it is true that the people in Atlantis Hotel is taking care of Sammy for medication then it's okey but after the medication, they should free Sammy for as we all know sharks stay in the sea not in the aquarium.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 14:22

The first two comments at the top of the page are very much mistaken in their thinking. To say the animal is not endangered does not mean it is safe. As Michele pointed out, there is very little known about these animals, and being as large as they are they take a lot longer to reach sexual maturity (around 30 years). Therefore, removing them from the ocean could have a significant effect on the population. Also, they are not being kept in a "safe" environment, they are being kept in a cage, and ALL animals in cages begin to display neurotic behavior over time. Imaging how you would like it to be stuck in a cage far too small for you. Atlantis does NOT have the right to keep this fish; they are NOT a research body and to pretend that they are is ridiculous. Their "research" is comparable to the "research" that the Japanese do when fishing whales out of the sea. Turn the whale shark over to a responsible conservation society.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 14:21

After viewing the whale shark at Atlantis, gathering swim patterns isn't rocket science. It just swims in a circle constantly instead of navigating the ocean. The hotel would have known all along they wanted an attraction like a whale shark and made a poor excuse of rescuing it! Just another example of the greed in Dubai!
Posted: October 08, 2008, 14:15

A whale shark has a much larger range in which it travels than even the Atlantis could provide. If they are keeping the fish withouth the proper permits, they should release it. I would think whale watching trips to the sea could be a very popular activity the Atlantis could provide and charge for if they are worried about the loss of revenue from releasing the shark.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 13:54

I think the whale shark whale should stay in Atlantis aquarium as there are lot of sharks in the ocean to play with especially in Australia
Posted: October 08, 2008, 13:26

The decision to release the shark should be for the benefit of the creature, as well as the general well being of similar animals in captivity. If the current habitat will not sustain their survival, they should be released. However, if proper care and environment are provided for them, I believe it's okay to keep them. So, this situation should be properly reviewed by environmental specialists.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 13:26

Since this is not an endagered species and the hotel authorities are taking good care of it, i believe its okay to stay there. besides, every day, hundreds of such animals are caught, killed and eaten world over... at least one will be least for the time being. it's just another publicity stunt... people should concentrate their time effort and resouces in areas where it is really required.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 12:49

I agree with Michele's comments. How can one monitor the data on swim patterns, feeding and behaviour of such gentle creatures if they're not monitored in their natural habitat. So please, for nature's sake, release SAMMY.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 12:39

Shark in aquarium, what is the problem? as long as professional people will take care of the shark with very rich hotel, then there shouldn't be any issue to worry about shark.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 12:20

I totally agree that the wild shark should be released in the wild that is the ocean and not in any man made aquarium.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 12:00

Sammy is just like the animals in the zoo which are being taken care of by people. If the animals are harmed, then that would be unacceptable. If Sammy will be freed, then all other animals in the zoo should also be freed.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 11:53

As a diver active in conservation projects and an EDA member, I find the actions and the statements of ATLANTIS appalling. According to previous reports the whale shark has been monitored 24 hours a day, including gathering extensive data on swim patterns, feeding and behaviors. The whale shark is being kept in an artificial tank, what data can be gathered on swim patterns and feeding behaviors? How are they generating enough plankton to keep this animal fed? According to the World Conservation Union, the whale shark is vulnerable to extinction. Ecocean, a 10 year old research, education and conservation programme for whale sharks based in Australia encourages divers to record sightings, photograph and aid in tagging the species. There have only been 320 recorded sightings globally since the mid 1980s and not much is known about the life and migratory pattern of this plankton-eating giant. How will the ATLANTIS be able to make a viable contribution to the life, migratory patterns, species interaction etc. with the capture and confinement of this animal?
Posted: October 08, 2008, 11:26

Please release the whale shark, populations of the shark is running low and whale shark can never survive in captivity.....EDA please help...regards from Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia
Posted: October 08, 2008, 11:24

Not only Sammy should be freed, but also all the big creatures (such as the manaray and sharks) in the pathetically small Dubai Mall aquarium.
Posted: October 08, 2008, 10:57

Yes, they should free the lovely sammy Shark. For business and money human have just gone to do anything. They should free sammy and think for environment and not business.
Sheetal Kumar
Posted: October 08, 2008, 10:35

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