The Al Shaheen offshore oil field in Qatar, located in the north of Doha, has become a site of a ground breaking research ‘Qatar Whale Shark Research Project’ dedicated to studying whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf.
The Qatar Whale Shark Research Project is a joint collaboration between the 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 completed in June revealed that more than 100 different species of fish exist in the area.
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, an environmental expert at the Ministry of Environment during the 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy from October 8 to 10.
Jaidah said that there is mass migration of whale sharks to feed in the Gulf waters during summer, 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 breed.
“The whale sharks are here to feed on fish eggs with several fish species brreding in this area between May and September. This could be due to the structures that attract fish, currents that concentrate eggs in certain locations and favourable sea temperatures,” Jaidah said.
He added, “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. 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 Jaidah, said 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. 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,” said Bach, a marine biologist.
The 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy, which will be held under the patronage of Minister of Energy & Industry and Chairman of Qatar Petroleum HE Dr Mohammed bin Saleh al Sada, 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 effective health and safety management and sustainable environmental practices in the energy sector.
source: Qatar Tribune
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