Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort supports first-ever Arabian Seas Whale Shark Research Symposium & Workshop

Published December 15th, 2009 - 11:06 GMT

Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort will be hosting and comprehensively supporting the 1st Arabian Seas Whale Shark Research Symposium & Workshop this coming weekend -- December 11th and 12th . The two-day event targets the region’s conservation, diving, fishing and boating communities through a series of presentations by the world’s leading whale shark specialists and two workshops custom-designed to inform and impart skills on how to establish a regional photo ID database of whale sharks in the Arab World.

The Symposium's primary sponsor is the Save Our Seas Foundation, with support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare(IFAW), the Emirates Diving Association (EDA), the Kuwait Environmental Research and Awareness Group (KERA), Scuba Dubai, Al Boom Diving and Wild Planet Productions.

“Le Méridien Al Aqah’s entire team enthusiastically embraced this initiative, and we are sponsoring the satellite tagging of a whale shark during the event to increase the level of knowledge about one of the most endangered species on our planet.  Our support comes as part of the environmental awareness and conservation efforts that are among the key areas of focus for the resort,” said Patrick Antaki, General Manager, Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort.

According to project leader and organizer of the symposium, Jonathan Ali Khan, a Dubai-based natural history film maker with Wild Planet Productions and founder of the Sharkquest Arabia Initiative, the whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Sea may hold the key to the survival of the species in the entire Indian Ocean.

Says Khan: “Many people here had only heard of or read something controversial about whale sharks in the UAE.  The main aim of the Symposium is to create a platform of communication and a forum of discussion between international researchers studying whale sharks elsewhere and passionate observers and supporters here in this region. “

He adds: “It is our opinion that in light of the role that our waters play as nurseries and feeding grounds for whale sharks, this region may hold the key to the welfare of the Indian Ocean population of whale sharks.  If that is proved to be the case, then we need to encourage support for regional research and international collaboration, identifying national stakeholders and forming a declaration to launch the Arabian Seas Whale Shark Research Program”.

The event is open to the region’s conservation authorities, diving industry, diving community, fishermen and sports fishermen, boating and sailing enthusiasts, all Government sectors and conservation and environmental NGO’s, Schools, Universities, Colleges and general public as a whole.  Access to attend and participate in the Symposium and Workshop is free on both days. The hotel is offering special rates for anyone interested to stay overnight during the event. The over-riding intention is to turn this event into a whale shark festival that celebrates the uniqueness of this threatened species.

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