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Abstract

The Al Shaheen oil field is located approximately 80 km north-east of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. The area hosts a highly productive marine environment due to a combination of complex currents and high temperatures. The diverse marine fauna is exemplified by one of the world largest aggregations of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) that return to this area every summer. The research has demonstrated that whale sharks come here to feed on the high concentration of tuna mackerel spawn (Euthynnus affinis). Over the past four years the Qatar Whale Shark Research project (www.qatarwhalesharkproject.com) has used novel acoustic and telemetric technologies to describe the demography and behaviour of the Arabian Gulf whale shark population. More than 70 whale sharks have been fitted with acoustic tags to be able to identify their main aggregation sites within the Al Shaheen oil field. Photo identification of more than 300 individuals and satellite telemetry tracking has confirmed the Arabian Gulf as a highly important habitat. Detailed hydrological modelling has been initiated in order to better describe the currents that influence the spawning location of the tuna mackerel and if they influence the movements of the whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf. Acoustic data loggers have also been deployed for monitoring the diurnal and seasonal presence of marine mammals based on their vocalisation. Several species of dolphins have already been identified including Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), Long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis), and Dwarf spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris roseiventris). The high concentration of these species in the Al Shaheen field might be a result of the reef-effect associated with offshore platforms. Images taken by Remote Operated Vehicles demonstrate extensive marine growth on the subsea structures that again attracts numerous pelagic species. More than 30 fish species have been identified so far including top predators such as Scalloped hammerhead(Sphyrna lewini), Blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), and Zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum). The research is based on collaboration with both international and Qatar based researchers representing universities, government and the oil industry. The data will make it possible for relevant authorities and industry operators to take appropriate action in order to secure the protection of biodiversity in the Arabian Gulf.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarc.2014.EEOP0889
2014-11-18
2019-10-14
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