Sunday, November 21, 2010

Le Méridien Al Aqah Joins Sharkwatch Arabia targeting the first wild whale shark tagging in the region

Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, 20.11.10- A team of divers and marine scientists will be down under the east coast waters and Musandam region of Oman looking for a suitable whale shark to satellite tag on 21st and 22nd November 2010. This will be the official start for the first ever wild whale shark tagging program in the region.

The sophisticated tag is sponsored by Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort who are supporting the Sharkwatch Arabia research project lead by Chief Scientist, David Robinson. Successful tagging will provide essential data on how these animals utilize the region's waters and beyond.

Sharkwatch Arabia is a post-graduate study in association with Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh and part of The Shark Project Oman based at Sultan Qaboos University. Sharkwatch Arabia also runs in collaboration with the Sharkquest Arabia Initiative and Emirates Diving Association. Dive schools have been notified to be on the lookout for sharks in the coming week.

Patrick Antaki, General Manager, Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, said, "The personal gratification I get from being a part of Sharkwatch Arabia is as important as the CSR involvement of the resort in this continued quest for environmental understanding and protection. Additionally, the conscious support of our team members who are avid divers that support the cause and voluntarily contribute to similar activities is commendable. We wish the dive teams all success in the tagging programme."

Undertaking the initiative to tag a wild and free swimming whale shark is a hard process that requires the fulfilment of several parameters and possibilities of many attempts to attach a satellite transmitter. The Sharkwatch Arabia teams will live up to the challenge and work towards making the tagging of a whale shark successful and play an important role in adding value to the overall programme.

One of the aims of the Sharkwatch Arabia project is to tag five whale sharks each year over the next five years to provide data on the movements of the animals in the region and help understand why they visit these waters and where they migrate to.

The whale shark is the largest known fish in the oceans, they are listed as vulnerable to extinction partly due to the increased demand for shark products in the Asian markets. The Sharkwatch Arabia project will make a valuable contribution to provide key insights into the ecology of the species and assist in providing necessary steps for their conservation.

Tagging a whale shark with a satellite transmitter helps to track their movements and behaviour in the wild with little interference. The tag that trails behind the animal gathers important information over a 120 day period and subsequently detaches itself from the whale shark. The data involves information of water temperatures, duration of dive, depths, etc. On detachment and touching the surface of the water, the tag begins to transmit the collected data to orbiting satellites that will later be interpreted by ARGOS, the French satellite uplink company who sends the data to research teams for evaluation and further study.

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