Abu Dhabi, July 28th 2022: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) on Tuesday led a high-profile tour of The National Aquarium attended by Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD to celebrate Shark Week, held between 24th to 31st July.
Also attending were, Ahmed Al Hashemi – Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, alongside Alyazia Saeed Al Meheiri, Development Manager at Al Baraka Holding and other officials from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, EAD and National Aquarium.
The delegation was able to see the diverse species of sharks that can be found at the National Aquarium and were provided with a general brief about the different species by an EAD expert. These include: shallow water bay species such as the Arabian Whipray, Arabian Carpet Shark, Halavi guitarfish, as well as a number of rays. They were also briefed on the Blacktip Reef Shark, Sicklefin Lemon shark, Scalloped Hammerhead Shark and Whitespotted Wedgefish.
The visitors were also given a tour on a glass-bottomed Bu Tinah boat, allowing them to enjoy a unique view of the marine species accompanied by detailed explanations of their names and characteristics.
Finally, the delegation was updated on EAD’s sea turtle rehabilitation programme, run in collaboration with the National Aquarium. Turtles that are rescued by specialists or the general public are treated at the Rehabilitation Centre and provided with the most advanced veterinary care before release back into their natural habitats. To date over 500 turtles have been rescued and released by EAD and National Aquarium.
On the occasion, Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri said: “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. 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.”
The Minister applauded the work of EAD and the National Aquarium in protecting marine life in the UAE.
Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri said: “In celebration of Shark Week, it is an absolute honour 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.”
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.”
She further elaborated: “At EAD, we have exerted boundless efforts to protect our marine species, especially sharks, and we ensure that if they ever reach shallow waters, as they have on several occasions, we take very good care of them and return them back to their natural environment so they can continue to thrive.
In fact, in 2020 we engaged in the world’s longest shark rescue, where we assisted a Whale Shark that was stuck in a manmade 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 concluded: “We are also very dedicated to propagating our turtle species through the rescue and rehabilitation programme 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 of the National Aquarium, said in a statement: “At the National Aquarium, 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 elasmobranches - 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 overharvested 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.