The whale shark can reach a length of over 15m and weigh more than 30 tonnes, making it the largest fish in the world.
Another successful season of the Qatar Whale Shark Research has come to an end, according to officials associated with the project.
The fifth season since 2011, the project has been rewarding and challenging for the team consisting of members from the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre and Heriot Watt University.
The MoE has launched 15 boat surveys in 2015 from the port of Al Ruwais to the Al Shaheen oil field located approximately 90km north-west of the coast of Qatar. Not only does the whale shark frequent Qatar waters every year, they aggregate in the Al Shaheen area in numbers only seen in a handful of places around the world.
Al Shaheen is the largest offshore oil field in Qatar. Since 1996, the offshore platforms have been operated by Maersk Oil on behalf of Qatar Petroleum. “You would think that jumping into the water surrounded by more than 100 giant black dorsal fins, all belonging to super-sized sharks, could only happen in your worst nightmare” said Mohamed al-Jaidah, special adviser to the MoE.
“But, in fact, being together with these harmless giants is the most beautiful and mind-blowing experience. They are so massive and yet graceful when they pass by you – giving you a curious look before they open their mouth and filter the water for food.”The research team has documented that they come here to feed on tiny fish eggs. DNA analysis conducted by the MoE Biotech Laboratories and University of Chicago confirmed that the fish eggs belong to the mackerel tuna. “All our research results are coming together now after five years of research and we are looking forward to present it at the fourth International Whale Shark Conference here in Doha,” said Abdulrahman al-Emadi, director of the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre.
The conference will take place in May 2016 and attract whale shark researchers from around the globe. It will be hosted by the MoE and will be sponsored by Maersk Oil Qatar.
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