[Coral-List] Atlantis Dubai whale shark

Jeremy Sofonia jeremy at sofonia.com
Fri Oct 10 03:48:15 EDT 2008

Thanks to Sarah for starting this discussion.

So that others on the list may have some background - I'm pasting in some
text from a statement prepared by Kerzner International, the developer,
owner and operator of Atlantis.

Have a read for yourself, but it seems 'a bit fishy' to me...

Looking forward to more from the List,



Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 9 –

Marine experts from Atlantis, The Palm resort rescued a struggling 4-metre
whale shark off the coast of Jebel Ali in Dubai on Thursday, 28 August
2008.  Found in the shallows, the whale shark was clearly under duress
when it was sighted by a local fisherman.

In accordance with UAE maritime laws, the fisherman alerted the local
officials, including Environmental Officers and Environmental Health and
Safety. Aware that Atlantis, The Palm had started the first stranding
network in the Arabian Gulf, the authorities contacted the resort to see
how their marine life experts could assist the whale shark.  Quickly
responding, the Atlantis team, which included marine biologists and
veterinarians with over 80 years of experience were dispatched to Jebel
Ali to assess the situation.  Due to the high temperature and salinity of
the water, the decision was made to transport the whale shark to the 11
million litre Ambassador Lagoon at Atlantis, The Palm for medical care and

The transport from Jebel Ali to The Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis, was
undertaken by local fisherman Hamad al Rahoomy with assistance from
Atlantis marine specialists.   A custom-made transport unit with a highly
advanced marine life transport system was used to ensure the safety and
well-being of the animal.

Since the arrival of the whale shark, the animal has been monitored 24
hours a day, including gathering extensive data on swim patterns, feeding
and behaviours.  In addition, the Fish Husbandry team is in constant
contact with experts in the whale shark community sharing data and
behaviours.  The health and well-being of all marine life is the number
one priority at Atlantis.

Alan Leibman, President and Managing Director of Atlantis, The Palm
emphasizes, “Atlantis, The Palm is proud to be able to offer our expertise
and recognized leadership in marine science to the United Arab Emirates. 
The whale shark is an animal about which little is known and we hope that
we can add to the research and data that is available.  Aquariums and
marine habitats have been the key to education about our oceans and the
animals that live in them.  Education, conservation and research go hand
in hand to benefit all marine life.”

Throughout the expansive 46 hectare resort, more than 65,000 fish and sea
creatures representing over 250 species live within 42 million litres of
salt water.  This harmony of marine life is managed by a team of more than
165 full-time Marine Animal Specialists.  The veterinarians, biologists,
aquarists, divers, laboratory mangers, food technicians, mechanics and
curators who tend to this delicate eco-system on a 24-hour basis have over
200 years experience from world-renowned marine institutes and facilities
in Europe, Australia, South Africa, Philippines, The Bahamas and the
United States.  Spearheading the development of the marine habitat at
Atlantis, The Palm are several team members who have worked at the
resort’s sister property - Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas. 
These individuals have been party to some extraordinary births and
developments within the marine habitats – in particular helping to
cultivate a thriving, natural environment for sharks.

The Atlantis marine operation is an impressive technical feat.   The over
42 million litres of seawater are drawn from the Arabian Gulf into an
open-flow system through an almost four million litre reservoir, and then
sand filtered, infused and cleaned with ozone before flowing into the
marine habitats around the resort.  This aquatic ecosystem mimics that
which the marine life would experience in the wild, with a constant change
in surroundings and seasonal changes in temperature.

The marine habitat also features a fish hospital with quarantine pools for
newborns, ailing and acclimatising marine life. This state-of-the-art
feature enables the resort to serve as a rescue and rehabilitation centre
for sea life. Dedicated food preparation areas serve a daily menu of
restaurant-quality ‘fish food’ including shrimp, squid, sardines and
minnows for the marine animals at the resort.  As an example of the
resort’s commitment to excellence and detail in every aspect of the marine
habitat, cases of romaine lettuces are served to herbivores, special food
blocks of dental plaster, pellets and powdered algae are fed to
parrotfish; and live shrimp are cultured and fed to jellyfish.

With a strong commitment to dolphin and marine life conservation, Dolphin
Bay also serves as the first marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation
centre in Dubai.  It is the only centre for stranded animals in the
Arabian Gulf. Every year, many injured marine animals are stranded and
need assistance. Now with Kerzner’s marine life expertise and new
facilities, some of these animals can be rescued, rehabilitated and
returned to the wild. The centre will also provide a broad range of
educational opportunities including graduate and undergraduate
programming, currently being developed in conjunction with universities
and local educational institutions.

About Whale Sharks:
The whale shark is the world’s largest living fish.  When fully grown,
they have measured up to 14 metres in length.  Despite their size, whale
sharks are harmless to humans.  They are found throughout the world in
tropical and warm temperate seas, near the coast and in the open ocean,
consuming plankton and small fish.  Whale sharks have wide mouths with
approximately 3000 small teeth at the front of their wide, flat heads.

Relatively little is known about the whale shark.  They are considered
solitary animals that swim slowly at the surface to feed.  It was
originally thought that whale sharks laid eggs.  However, it is now known
that whale sharks are live-bearing, producing litters of more than 300
“pups” that measure only approximately 45-60 cm in length.

The Atlantis Vision
Atlantis' Mission is to become the world's leader in marine animal
experiences there-by inspiring passionate participation in protecting our
oceans and creating life-long memories through entertainment, education,
conservation and research.  Atlantis, The Palm’s aim is to implement
targeted scientific studies with local fishery and educational partners to
provide an enhanced marine knowledge of the waters surrounding the United
Arab Emirates. From these studies, a breed and release programme will be
initiated for various species, similar to the successful program at
Atlantis, Paradise Island with sea life found in the waters of The

On Thu, October 9, 2008 13:38, Delbeek, Charles wrote:
> Actually the Georgia Aquarium has FOUR whale sharks and they were
> collected
> in Taiwan.
> Just because an institution does not belong to AZA or WAZA does NOT mean
> it
> is not capable or competent to keep marine life in captivity. Joining
> these
> associations is a matter of choice, it is not a requirement. Being in such
> as
> association ensures that certain standards are being met, but those
> standards
> can still be met or even exceeded whether you are a member or not. Also,
> it
> is not uncommon for new institutions to take a year or more to become
> accredited due to the extremely involved process and amount of paperwork
> that
> needs to be done; this can take up to two years. So even though Palm Dubai
> is
> not currently affiliated with any association it does not mean they won't
> soon be. Their sister institution in the Bahamas is accredited by AZA I
> believe.
> Sincerely,
> J. Charles Delbeek
> Reopening in Golden Gate Park  9.27.08
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Sarah
> Frias-Torres
> Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2008 8:18 AM
> To: William Allison; coral-list coral-list
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Atlantis Dubai whale shark
> Bill,"We must protect the wild ocean". This is one of the many messages
> that
> comes out of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's
> Conference (IUCN), ocurring right now in Barcelona.  I will not enter into
> a
> debate over captive vs non captive marine wildlife, although that could be
> the subject of another chain of emails. First, the facts.IUCN's red list,
> has
> whale sharks as VULNERABLE, although as scientists learn more about the
> species, it is possible that some local feeding grounds (where whale
> sharks
> aggregate) will be classfied as ENDANGERED.  CITES lists the species under
> appendix II, as a species not threatened by extinction but trade needs to
> be
> controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with survival.  If
> you
> go into the details of permits, etc, you find an interesting clause that
> says:"in the case of a live animal....it must be prepared/shipped to
> minimize
> any risk of injury, damage or health or CRUEL TREATMENT. As for keeping a
> whale shark
>   or any wildlife (terrestrial or marine) in captivity, in the USA, the
> (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) has set up a series of very
> restrictive
> and demanding conditions in order for an aquarium to earn accreditation..
> Those regulations involve adequate husbandry, and justification of having
> the
> captive animal, which usually involves setting up quite an extensive long
> term educational and research program, as well as a captive reproductive
> program whenever possible. Within the USA, the Georgia Aquarium has
> successfully kep alive two juvenile whale sharks, which were originally
> captured in Indonesia, and ready to be killed. This aquarium is fully
> accreditted by AZA, and has established an extremely active research and
> educational program on the species. The international sister of AZA is....
> WAZA (the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) which follows equally
> restrictive and demading regulations for institutions to earn
> accreditation.
> The Atlantic Hotel in the Palm, D
>  ubai, is NOT accredited under WAZA to keep any marine wildlife captive..
> You
> can go to the WAZA web site, and check for the list of accredited
> institutions yourself. In conclusion, the Atlantic Hotel in the Palm in
> Dubai, is NOT accredited to keep marine wildlife in captivity, therefore,
> not
> accredited to keep a whale shark, because it does not comply with the
> requirements needed to do so. Keeping the shark incarcerated "in order to
> recuperate from stress" is bogus, as that is not the way you reduce stress
> in
> a whale shark (but see comments above about AZA and WAZA), and "for
> scientific study", that will be interesting to see, but it looks the same
> bogus argument of the "scientific whaling" used by the Japanese in order
> to
> continue killing cetaceans.  The hotel may argue that because they are a
> hotel, not a public aquarium, they don't need WAZA's accreditation. But
> that
> begs the question, why they have captive marine wildlife in the first
> place.
> If they have it for the "pleas
>  ure of their guests" that contradicts their statements on "recuperation
> from
> stress and for scientific study". The shark must be released at once.
> Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D.
> Marine Conservation Biologist
> Ocean Research and Conservation Assocaition, Florida USA
>  > Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2008 09:53:09 -0400> From: allison.billiam at gmail.com>
> To:
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> Subject: [Coral-List] Atlantis Dubai whale
> shark> > A friend in Dubai has contacted me to express concern about the
> fate
> of the> 4 m whale shark "rescued" in early September 2008 and since
> confined
> to the> aquarium at the Atlantis Hotel in the Palm, Dubai. The explanation
> offered> to the public for keeping the shark incarcerated is to allow it
> to>
> recuperate from stress and for scientific study. Sceptics suspect more>
> self-interested reasons. The CITES listing of this species is an
> interesting>
> wrinkle. Hoping to establish the smoke to fire ratio, I would like to
> hear>
> about the pros and cons of this situation from people with professional>
> experience with whale shark biology, and especially those with
> arms-length>
> experience with this particular case.> > Bill>
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