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.

 


Zain KSA celebrates key 5G milestone

Updated 14 December 2019

Zain KSA celebrates key 5G milestone

Zain KSA celebrated the finalization of the first phase of the Middle East’s largest 5G network in a special event on Dec. 8 at the Hilton Riyadh. The ceremony, held under the patronage of Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, was attended by Zain KSA Chairman Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Muhammed bin Saud Al-Kabeer, Governor of Communications and Information Technology Commission Dr. Muhammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology Haitham bin Abdulrahman Al-Ohali, and Zain KSA CEO Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Deghaither, along with other dignitaries in the ICT sector.

Prince Nayef said: “Zain KSA’s achievement accompanies the speedy development and innovative services of the digital revolution that the world around us is witnessing. This achievement is significant in its timing, as it coincides with the rapid rise of the Kingdom’s ranking in several prestigious international reports, specifically in the ICT sector. Another aspect that makes this achievement noteworthy is its size, as it offers the broadest coverage of the 5G network, which has positioned the Kingdom as the first in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.”

Prince Nayef pointed out the concurrence of Zain KSA’s accomplishment with the Kingdom’s growing pivotal role at the global economic level, and in becoming the first Arab country to preside over the G20 summit. He affirmed Zain’s commitment to keeping pace with the Kingdom’s economic ambitions in line with its position in employing young national talent. He said the Saudization rate in the company has reached 86 percent, with young Saudis assuming 92 percent of leadership positions.

CEO Al-Deghaither said through its completion of the first phase of the 5G network, Zain KSA confirms its commitment to becoming a key player in the ICT sector. “Zain KSA has made several significant achievements since its inception. Today, we proudly announce that the company has the widest 5G network coverage in the Kingdom and the region.” 

He added that the 5G technology will lead the Kingdom toward a new world with its substantial technologies and capabilities, which will be evident in various sectors through the Internet of Things and the business sector, in addition to other daily functions that will make customer experience easier and more effective.”

Al-Deghaither said that this step comes at a time when Zain KSA is witnessing its best operational performance by reaching the highest profit over the past two years, with SR380 million ($101.3 million) during the first nine months of 2019, and a total of SR332 million for 2018.

With the completion of the first phase of the 5G network, Zain KSA is now offering a range of packages of 5G services for individuals and businesses through a network of 2,600 towers distributed across 27 cities.