[Coral-List] Atlantis Dubai whale shark

William Allison allison.billiam at gmail.com
Sun Oct 12 10:40:49 EDT 2008

Hi Jeremy,
Thanks for reminding me of that press release. I had dug it up and
discounted it (except for its curiousity value) before I posted the inquiry
to coral list that Sarah so helpfully responded to. It is either spin or a
symptom of a casino variety reality-disconnect given the nature of Dubai
coastal development. The assertion in the title says it all: "ATLANTIS, THE
PALM CONTINUES MARINE LEADERSHIP...." (howls of cosmic belly-laughs


On Fri, Oct 10, 2008 at 3:48 AM, Jeremy Sofonia <jeremy at sofonia.com> wrote:

> 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,
> Jeremy
> 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
> observation.
> 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
> Bahamas"
> 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
> > AZA
> > (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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