Qatar to host whale shark conservation forum

Qatar to host whale shark conservation forum

Doha, The Gulf Observer: The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoECC) will organise Qatar Forum on Whale Shark Conservation 2023 on May 22 and 23, 2023 at Aquatic Research Centre in Ras Matbakh, in partnership with Unesco.

Eleven experts and specialists in the fields of marine environment, aquatic and Whale Sharks from Qatar and abroad will participate in the forum, while will have a number of workshops and sessions with several studies and research papers on the means of protecting the endangered whale sharks. Officials from the GCC will also participate in the event.

Addressing a press conference yesterday, Farhoud Al Hajri, Manager of Department of Public Relations and Communication at the ministry, said the forum will be a meeting point for a large number of local and international researchers interested in the conservation of marine life and its biodiversity as well as specialists in marine sciences and whale sharks.

He said Qatar hosts the largest population of whale sharks in the world. “The Forum is a global platform that will exceptionally contribute to supporting the studies on whale sharks by the expansive participation of international experts, It will also contribute to the sharing of knowledge, protection, conservation and further research on the whale shark,” said Al Hajri.

Mohamed Al Khanji, Chairman of the organising committee and Director of Wildlife Development Department, said the forum came as a second step in researching whale sharks because understanding the research of neighbouring countries is a pivotal step towards more comprehensive findings.

The forum is specially important to Qatar because the country is distinguished for having the largest or second largest cluster of whale sharks in the world, particularly in the Al Shaheen oil field, according to Al Khanji. Whale sharks tend to cluster in Qatar in groups every year starting from April through September or the middle of October.

In 2020, Qatar’s whale shark population surpassed 600, breaking international records. More recently, the average population spotted ranged from 400-500.

“Whale sharks are a treasure from the aquatic treasures,” Al Khanji said. Holding such a record comes with great responsibility for Qatar, acknowledged Al Khanji, considering that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) deemed the species as endangered.

Thus, the MoECC views the forum as a meeting point for local and international researchers interested in the conservation of marine life, to share their most recent research findings on whale shark’s lifestyles, mannerisms and distribution. The forum will also encourage the building of partnerships between stakeholders and development of an action plan.