The Al Shaheen offshore oil field in Qatar, located approximately 150 kilometres north of Doha, has become the site of a ground breaking research project dedicated to studying whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf.
The Qatar Whale Shark Research Project is a joint collaboration between the Qatar Ministry of Environment and Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre (MO-RTC), with the objective of establishing a long-term monitoring programme that can provide pioneering information about the population and ecology of the world’s largest fish.
Operated by Maersk Oil on behalf of Qatar Petroleum, the Al Shaheen oil field hosts one of world’s largest congregations of whale sharks during the summer months. A two week survey was completed in June this year, which observed more than 100 of the majestic fish.
The survey was documented by the BBC Natural History Group for the upcoming TV series ‘Wild Arabia’, and the findings will be presented by Mohammed Al-Jaidah, Environmental Expert at the Qatar Ministry of Environment during the 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy, taking place from 8-10 October at the Doha Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Al-Jaidah said that the mass migration of whale sharks are drawn to the Gulf waters during summer to feed, adding that the Al Shaheen oil field structures and the surrounding protected waters attract a variety of marine life and fish that come to the area to spawn.
“The whale sharks are definitely here to feed on fish eggs, with several fish species spawning in this area during May to September,” said Al-Jaidah. “This could be due to the structures that attract fish, currents that concentrate eggs in certain locations, and favourable sea temperatures.
“The sharks seem to prefer deeper areas – depths of 50 metres or more – and are seen to occupy very specific areas for weeks. They are identified by the spot pattern on their backs that is unique for each individual, and thirteen of the 107 identified sharks were also observed last year, indicating that individuals return to this area annually. This year we have fitted several of the whale sharks with transmitters in order to follow their movements in the Arabian Gulf and beyond.”
Steffen Bach, Environmental Team Lead at Maersk Oil Research Technology Centre, who will deliver the presentation at the HSE Forum in Energy alongside Al-Jaidah, said that the Qatar Whale Shark Research Project is part of a long-term collaboration between Maersk Oil and the Qatar Ministry of Environment in their joint effort to boost marine biodiversity in Qatar, bringing together energy regulators, industry operators and researchers.
“Being an environmentally responsible oil and gas operator requires that we understand the offshore environment we work in,” said Bach, a marine biologist. “The marine ecosystem has therefore been identified as one of the main research topics of the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre in Doha. It is essential that projects such as the Qatar Whale Shark Research Project have a long-term goal and are done in close partnership with local researchers and authorities.”
Held under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy & Industry and Chairman of Qatar Petroleum, the 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy will host more than 45 regional and international HSE experts to discuss HSE best practice and operational excellence.
The dedicated industry conference and exhibition will put a spotlight on the latest developments and technological solutions essential to ensuring the effective health and safety management and sustainable environmental practices in the energy sector.
“Being able to address our key stakeholders at the 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy is a great opportunity for us to share our experience and findings with everybody related to the oil & gas business,” added Bach. “If we can reach a common understanding on what is good for the industry, the environment, and the future of Qatar, then we have really achieved something.”
The two-day conference in Doha will feature 30 presentations, two panel discussions and five hours of networking sessions, before culminating with four half-day post conference workshops on the final day.
Headline speakers include Saif Al Naimi, Director of HSE Regulations & Enforcement Directorate at Qatar Petroleum, Dr. Wells Grogan, Vice President of HSSEQ at Maersk Oil, Jean-Philippe Bérillon, Senior VP of Security & Safety at GDF SUEZ Global Gas & LNG, Richard Pollock, President Elect at ASSE, and Richard Birrer, Executive Director of Saudi Aramco Medical Services Organisation (SAMSO).
The 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy is supported by Qatar Petroleum, and organised by Fleming Gulf. Gold Sponsors include Dolphin Energy and Industrial Scientific, while ChemSafe, Petrotechnics, Ras Laffan Industrial City, and SHEields are on board as Silver Sponsors.
For more information about HSE Forum in Energy, or to be involved as an exhibitor, sponsor, or delegate, go to www.hse-me.com or call: +971 4 609 1588.
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