Whale shark hot spot in Red Sea offers new insights

An international team of KAUST researchers studied whale shark movement patterns near the Shib Habil reef (Arabic for ‘Rope Reef’), a known whale shark hotspot in the Red Sea on the Saudi Arabian coast.
Updated 18 November 2019

Whale shark hot spot in Red Sea offers new insights

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whale sharks are considered endangered, which means the species has suffered a population decline of more than 50 percent in the past three generations. The whale shark is only two classifications from being extinct. Improvements and conservation efforts are in place, but there is still a long way to
go to protect these gentle underwater giants.
An international team of researchers, led by marine scientists at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and including researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US, has performed an extensive study of whale shark movement and residency using a combination of three scientific techniques: Visual census, acoustic monitoring and satellite telemetry.
Their six-year study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, tracked long-term whale shark movement patterns near the Shib Habil reef (Arabic for “Rope Reef”), a known whale shark hotspot in the Red Sea. The team monitored a total of 84 different sharks over a six-year period, and their results shed light on whale shark behaviors,
which could help to inform conservation efforts.
“The study takes years of passive acoustic monitoring data and combines it with previously published visual census and satellite telemetry data from the same individual sharks. The combined dataset is used to characterize the aggregation’s seasonality, spatial distribution, and patterns of dispersal,” said Dr. Michael Berumen, director of the Red Sea Research Center and professor of marine science at KAUST.

HIGHLIGHT

An international team of researchers, led by marine scientists at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and including researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US, has performed an extensive study of whale shark movement and residency.

They found the aggregation to be highly seasonal, with sharks being most abundant in April and May, and that many of the sharks returned to the hot spot regularly year after year. The study also shows roughly equal numbers of male and female sharks using the site, something that could be unique to Shib Habil. These characteristics indicate that this site may serve an important function for the wider Indian Ocean population of this rare and endangered species.
“Using the combined dataset, we can show somewhat conclusively that the aggregation meets all of the criteria of a shark nursery. This is particularly relevant given that Shib Habil is the only site in the Indian Ocean to regularly attract large numbers of juvenile females. Growing late-stage adolescents of both sexes into full adulthood is critical for sustaining a species. Management of critical habitats like Shib Habil and other aggregations will likely be vital for future whale shark conservation,” said KAUST graduate Dr. Jesse Cochran, lead author of the study.
There is a combination of factors contributing to the decrease of whale shark populations world-wide, including targeted fishing, bycatch losses due to fisheries, vessel strikes from boat traffic, marine debris, and pollution.

 


Pearson unveils Mideast winners of BTEC Awards

Updated 09 July 2020

Pearson unveils Mideast winners of BTEC Awards

Outstanding students, tutors and colleges from 25 countries, including from the Middle East, saw their achievements recognized at the BTEC Awards 2020 ceremony, held online for the first time due to coronavirus.

Hosted by presenter of the United Stand, YouTube influencer and BTEC ambassador, Flex, 17 category award winners were celebrated from the UAE and around the Middle East as well as internationally in subjects such as health and social care, performing arts, engineering, IT, business and sport.

Double Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock and architect, TV presenter and campaigner George Clarke were among those presenting awards. 

They were joined by journalist and TV presenter Steph McGovern who spoke about her passion for vocational education and the BTEC Awards.

Spanning across 21 categories, the awards showcase the exceptional BTEC learners and teachers that have been nominated to win a gold, silver or bronze BTEC award. Accepted in more than 200 universities worldwide, BTEC is a highly regarded, career-focused qualification, studied in over 60 countries.

The Middle East winners are:

• BTEC Hospitality, Travel and Tourism Student of the Year Silver Winner — Finn Page, DESC, UAE

• BTEC Teacher of the Year (schools only) Bronze Winner — James McBlane, British School Al-Khubairat, UAE

• BTEC IT and Computing Student of the Year Bronze Winner — Sangeetha Philip, Cambridge International School, Dubai, UAE

• BTEC Business and Enterprise Student of the Year Bronze Winner — Delma Sharyl D’Silva, The Winchester School — Jebel Ali, Dubai, UAE

Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice president, BTEC and apprenticeships at Pearson Education, said: “This year I’ve been overwhelmed by the quality of BTEC Award nominations we received, and I am delighted to celebrate this year’s winners and the achievements of all learners who will be awarded a BTEC this year. 

Over the past few weeks and months, we’ve seen how the current pandemic has highlighted the critical role of key workers and individuals who are likely to have followed a vocational educational pathway such as BTEC.”

In the UAE, BTEC qualifications are available in sectors including applied science, art and design, business, childcare, construction, engineering, media, health and social care, hospitality, ICT, performing arts, public services, sport, travel and tourism.

Pearson has been delivering BTEC qualifications worldwide since 1984. A recent study revealed that 90 percent of BTEC students are employed full-time after graduating.

Globally, nearly 1 million students studied toward a BTEC in the past year, via 784 approved BTEC centers in 60 countries.

In response to new careers emerging within industries and ongoing change, Pearson is continually adapting and innovating its BTEC curriculum and learning to ensure it is relevant for young people and adults, supporting progression and career aspirations throughout lives.