Dubai: Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai has announced a selection of nine local conservation and sustainability projects set to receive funding from the '$1' contribution initiative the resort launched in June 2021.
Over the past 12 months, for every marine animal experience participated in by a guest, Atlantis, The Palm has collected $1, which has resulted in a $120,000 (around Dh440,700) investment fund for the project, which aims to support UAE-based conservation and sustainability projects to help protect the ocean and our environment.
Over the past two months, UAE-based organisations were invited to apply for funding, after which proposals were solicited and assessed against their contributions to scientific advancement, conservation and sustainability.
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Atlantis Atlas Project currently focuses on four key groups of wildlife; sharks, rays, dolphins, and corals, and two key threats to the ocean; unsustainable seafood and plastic pollution. With this in mind, projects were selected based on their support of these conservation goals.
The first project the funding will support is UAE’s leading social enterprise Goumbook on their ‘Save The Butts’ campaign. This initiative sees the collection of cigarette butts littering beaches and public areas and uses circular economy principles to recycle the waste to create valuable material from it. This campaign will also actively involve Atlantis Dubai’s colleague base through volunteer litter picking and collecting waste within the destination that Goumbook and their partners can recycle.
The initiative will also provide a year of funding for UAE-based Seafood Souq, which will support the development of a digital platform to make seafood trade more efficient, sustainable, transparent and traceable. This will involve developing a QR code for diners – to be piloted on Michelin-starred Ossiano’s menu – enabling diners to find out exactly where the seafood on their plates was sourced from.
A further year of funding has been initiated with the Zayed University and lead UAE-based researcher, Dr Ada Natoli, on the Dubai Dolphin Survey, which supports boat-based research of local dolphin populations. Last year, this project saw a total of 60 boat surveys spanning a distance of 5,444km along the UAE coastline and more than 270 man-hours, resulting in 11,043 images taken, with dolphins spotted 18 times. From 2022, this project will expand to survey new areas as well as introduce acoustic monitoring.
A further year of funding has also been initiated with the United Arab Emirates University to support their research into the local shark and ray population and their study of Critically Endangered species in local waters. Actively involving the Atlantis aquarists and veterinary teams, this additional year of funding will amplify efforts and investigate evolutionary relationships, helping inform fisheries management and conservation strategies in the UAE.
A debut year of funding will go to the AZA SAFE Sharks & Rays working group, whose programme’s goal is to enable evidence-based support for conservation action globally. Sharks are a key conservation focus for Atlantis Atlas Project and this project draws on relevant zoos and aquarium expertise to help save species in the wild.
Atlantis’ very own dive teams will assist Freestyle Divers as they plunge underwater to place artificial reefs into the shallow coastal region of Fujairah. This will support the rehabilitation of reef ecosystems in the area, protecting population levels and the biodiversity of natural marine life. Funding will also be provided to New York University Abu Dhabi to support their investigations into the impact of climate change on coral reef ecosystems in the Gulf.
Atlantis Atlas Project will also continue to support the position of Global Program Officer for the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group, led by UAE-based Dr Rima Jabado. This important specialist group is the leading authority on the status of sharks, rays, and chimaeras globally and has recently finished assessing the status of all known species – a pivotal development in the field and for these species.
Kelly Timmins, Director Conservation, Education & CSR of Atlantis Dubai, said: “We are excited to work with existing and new partners for this year’s round of funding, in order to protect species and their habitats. As an organisation accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we are dedicated to supporting partners who are actively working in the field and local community to make a difference. We are proud to say, that every project actively involves our colleagues at Atlantis Dubai; whether it be our chefs and sourcing team working on sustainable seafood, or our divers and aquarists restoring coral reefs, it is really a collaborative approach to conservation and sustainability. As our projects get underway, there are also opportunities for our guests and UAE residents to get involved and learn more; such as visiting our Fish Hospital to see our coral project in action, or joining the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative as a citizen scientist. We look forward to embarking on these projects and seeing the results truly make a difference.”
Tim Kelly, Managing Director and Executive Vice President of Atlantis Dubai, said: “We are all extremely proud to announce the first group of projects supported by our contribution fund. The nine projects we have chosen demonstrate significant expertise, ingenuity and innovation in their work to protect our environment and the ocean while sharing our conservation goals – and the need to accelerate progress towards them. Driving conservation and sustainability initiatives outside of the resort as well as transforming operations inside the resort are both critical to Atlantis Atlas Project’s long-term strategy – and through this, our collective aim is to make positive, measurable impacts on our planet and its people.”