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. Despite sea surface temepratures exeeding 35 degress Celcius in the summer images taken by Remote Operated Vehicles demonstrate extensive and diverse marine growth on the subsea structures of the production platforms. Over the last twenty years the platforms have turned into artificial reefs that 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 diverse marine fauna is however best known for one of the world largest aggregations of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) that return to this area every summer from May to September. The research has demonstrated that whale sharks come here to feed on the high concentration of tuna mackerel spawn (Euthynnus affinis) (Robinson, et. al , 2013). Over the past four years the Qatar Whale Shark Research project (www.qatarwhalesharkproject.com) has used novel acoustic and telemetric technologies to describe the behaviour of the Arabian Gulf whale shark population. More than 100 whale sharks have been fitted with acoustic tags to be able to identify the hot spots within the Al Shaheen oil field. Photo identification of more than 300 individuals and satellite telemetry tracking has confirmed the Al Shaheen Oil field as a highly important feeding habitat in the region. Detailed hydrological modelling has been initiated in order to better describe the currents that may influence the spawning location of the tuna mackerel and the movements of the whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf. The data will make it possible for relevant authorities and industry operators to take appropriate action in order to secure the protection of whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf. Robinson DP, Jaidah MY, Jabado RW, Lee-Brooks K, Nour El-Din NM, Malki AAA, et al. (2013) Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, Aggregate around Offshore Platforms in Qatari Waters of the Arabian Gulf to Feed on Fish Spawn. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58255. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058255


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  • Received: 07 December 2015
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