The whale shark
- The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish in the world and is expected to have existed for around 60 million years.
- Historically, very little data on whale sharks has ever been collected because it was not considered commercially viable. In recent years this status has changed with the increasing demand for shark products from the Asian market.
- There are increasing reports of whale sharks being taken for their fins as other species of shark become less abundant. They are currently classed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Qatari Whale Shark Project researches the whale sharks and other sea life around Al Shaheen, where public access and fishing is banned, seeking to understand why they come here and how best to protect them. So far it has identified several species of dolphins, sharks and other species which were not believed to exist in this part of the Gulf.
“The water contains DNA fragments from marine species that have been in the area recently,” says Philip Francis Thomsen from the University of Copenhagen, who is working on a new monitoring technology. “By filtering a simple water sample we can potentially identify all the fish species that are present around the platforms during the year.”
MO-RTC’s Bach is also expectant. “This work is extremely exciting for us because very little has been published about the marine life in the Gulf and the new DNA technology has shown promising results previously,” he says. “The perception of the Gulf as a desert sea might be about to change.”