Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quiet in Seychelles but storms brew in Dubai over Sammy the captive whale shark

Whale shark monitoring here has hit a bit of a hiatus as our microlight aircraft sustained some serious damage over the weekend and a replacement is being air-freighted out to complete the rest of the monitoring season. The lack of aerial support is severely hampering monitoring activities and pilot Johan is keen to get things back on track by this Friday if all goes according to plan.
Sammy the whale shark in the Atlantis Aquarium dubai, photo courtesy Free Sammy Facebook group

Meanwhile, storm clouds seem to be gathering over Dubai at the moment over the fate of a juvenile female whale shark that has been in captivity in the Atlantis Aquarium for over a month now. The shark was caught after fishermen who were collecting fish for the aquarium found the shark to be in trouble in shallow water behind a breakwater in Jebel Ali; the shark was taken by the aquarium to ‘recuperate’ but so far there are no signs of it being released.

The shark was named Sammy and local newspaper the Gulf News has described a ‘tsunami of support’ to have it released with a ‘Free Sammy’ campaign running on its on-line edition (click the image left). You can even download a ‘Free Sammy’ badge from the site.

Whale sharks in captivity cause very mixed reactions; on the one hand having these sharks in tanks does allow many more people to see them and thus serves a function in raising awareness. The very young whale sharks reared in Japanese aquaria have also provided some of the only evidence about neonatal whale shark growth rates. However, on the other hand these are free ranging wild animals that eat plankton and they tend not to fare well being kept in aquaria conditions. Of concern are the recent deaths of two of the captive whale sharks in the Georgia aquarium in the USA; such deaths do little to raise public awareness and only serve to increase pressure to allow these sharks to go back to the open ocean.

If you want to learn more there is also a face-book site for supporters of Sammy at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=93869105312&ref=mf

1 comment:

Richard said...

Blatent abuse of this animal. Disgusting! And Dubai calls itself a developed nation.... hogwash if they allow this to happen. I was due to fly via Dubai to Europe this summer with Emerites. Today I changed to Malaysian Airlines. Boycott Dubai until they gain there commin sense back!!!!