ABU DHABI: The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has led a high-profile tour of the National Aquarium to commemorate Shark Week, which runs from July 24-31, Emirates News Agency reported.
The tour was attended by Minister of Climate Change and the Environment Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri and Secretary-General of the EAD Dr. Shaikha Salem Al-Dhaheri.
Ahmed Al-Hashemi, executive director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at the EAD, was also present, as was Alyazia Saeed Al-Meheiri, development manager at Al-Baraka Holding.
The delegation was able to see the various shark species found at the National Aquarium and was given a general overview of the different species by an EAD expert, including shallow water bay species such as the Arabic whipray, Arabian carpetshark and halavi guitarfish.
The delegation was also briefed on the blacktip reef shark, the sicklefin lemon shark, the scalloped hammerhead shark, and the white-spotted wedgefish.
The visitors were also given a tour on a glass-bottomed Bu Tinah boat, which provided them with a unique view of the marine species as well as detailed explanations of their names and characteristics.
Finally, the delegation was given an update on the EAD’s sea turtle rehabilitation program, which is run in partnership with the National Aquarium.
Turtles rescued by specialists or members of the general public are treated at the rehabilitation center and given the most advanced veterinary care before being returned to their natural habitats.
The EAD and the National Aquarium have rescued and released over 500 turtles to date.
“Our marine waters are the mainstay of our fishing and tourism industries, and provide habitats for a diverse range of species. Conserving marine biodiversity is a collective responsibility that we encourage the community to take on,” Almheiri said.
“Shark Week aims to educate the general public, particularly children and youth, about the key role sharks play in keeping marine ecosystems in balance and the importance of safeguarding our oceans from the mounting pressures they face due to diverse factors, such as overfishing and marine pollution,” Almheiri added.
The minister praised the EAD and the National Aquarium for their efforts to protect marine life in the UAE.
“In celebration of Shark Week, it is an absolute honor to partner with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment on this visit to the National Aquarium, to be updated about our vast array of marine biodiversity species inhabiting Abu Dhabi’s waters, especially our diverse shark species,” Al-Dhaheri said
She added: “The National Aquarium is an aesthetically pleasing location, allowing the general public the chance to experience our wide range of species without having to venture into deep waters — making it a vital educational tool.
“Abu Dhabi has a vast number of marine species that several people know nothing about, and through encouraging visits to locations such as the National Aquarium we can bridge this information gap.
“In fact, in 2020 we engaged in the world’s longest shark rescue, where we assisted a whale shark that was stuck in a man-made lagoon and moved it over 20 km to safety. The shark was moved in a specially-designed transport bag and escorted to open sea and monitored where it managed to travel for 273 km into the middle of the Arabian Gulf within the first five days,” she said.
“We are also very dedicated to propagating our turtle species through the rescue and rehabilitation program via our partnership with National Aquarium, and in the last few years we have returned a large number of turtles back to the sea so they can inhabit and breed one again in their natural habitats.”
Paul Hamilton, general manager the National Aquarium, said: “We are very proud of the work done in the past two years with the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi on the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sea turtles.
“This project contributes to the increasing success rate of animal survival in Abu Dhabi and, more importantly, to the significant impact on marine habitats protection.
He added: “The aquarium has the most extensive diversity of elasmobranchs — sharks and rays — in the region, which offers visitors of all ages a remarkable opportunity to learn about these animals and transform fear into fascination. For example, sharks are one of the most over-harvested creatures in the ocean, and their population has decreased dramatically. Hence, our responsibility is to raise awareness and advocate for their survival in the wild.”