Dubai: A whale shark rescued off the coast of Jebel Ali and placed in the Palm Jumeirah Atlantis hotel aquarium will eventually be tagged and released, Gulf News has learnt.
Atlantis announced the capture of the juvenile whale shark recently which was found in shallow waters, fatigued and disorientated. The 4 metre long whale shark has been placed in the 11 million litre Ambassador Lagoon - one of the biggest aquariums in the world.
According to Ibrahim Al Zu'bi, environmental advisor with the Emirates Diving Association, the whale shark will offer great opportunities for learning and awareness but should not be kept in the aquarium long term.
"It should be released as soon as possible. Atlantis have plans to tag it and let it go. Stone structures and ornaments were removed from the aquarium to give it some space. It is a good thing that we have experts now that can handle situations like this," he said.
Al Zu'bi added that previously the Emirates Environment Association (EDA) received many calls about whale sharks that get disorientated and find their way to the Arabian Gulf. "Not much is known about whale sharks by the way so this will raise awareness for the fish. It is protected by CITES (Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species) so the hotel should inform them of the whale shark," he said.
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, The Palm for medical care and observation. A custom-made transport unit with a highly advanced marine life transport system was used to ensure the safety and well-being of the animal.
Since the arrival of the whale shark, the animal has been monitored 24 hours a day, including gathering extensive data apparently on swim patterns, feeding and behaviours. The Fish Husbandry team is in constant contact with experts in the whale shark community sharing data and behaviours. The health and well-being of all marine life is the number one priority at Atlantis, the hotel said in a statement.
Alan Leibman, President and Managing Director of Atlantis said, "The whale shark is an animal about which little is known and we hope that we can add to the research and data that is available. Aquariums and marine habitats have been the key to education about our oceans and the animals that live in them. Education, conservation and research go hand in hand to benefit all marine life."
It is unknown how long Atlantis plan to keep the whale shark for.