Whale sharks have been spotted meeting at the Al Shaheen offshore oil field off of Qatar’s northeast coast, according to Kuwaiti state news KUNA.
More than 100 whale sharks congregate near coral reef colonies 90 kilometers away from land between April and September every year, as opposed to 4-5 weeks in other locations worldwide.
Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) has exerted efforts to maintain the country’s marine environment, especially following the congregation of the giant aquatic animal.
The whale shark, which can grow up to be 18 meters long and can weigh over 30 tonnes, is one of the largest fish in the world.
In 2019, MME began to study the journey of whale sharks by installing tracking devices on 12 of them. In 2011, the ministry launched a project on whale sharks to study their behavior.
The giant aquatic animal inhabits tropical and warm waters and can live up to 70 years. Despite their size, these animals are filter-feeders, and their diet includes plankton, copepods, krill, fish eggs, and small fish.
The ministry monitored the congregation of approximately 400 whale sharks at the oil fields, noting that they mainly fed on tuna fish eggs. Tuna fish lay millions of eggs between April and October in this area.
Qatar boasts a vibrant aquatic ecosystem. The Gulf country’s waters are home to one of the largest herds of dugongs, with numbers of the shy and lovable marine mammal reaching 840, marking the largest gathering of the aquatic animals in Qatar in some three decades.
MME has also been committed to protecting dugongs and has frequently visited areas where they are found to conduct research on the animals.
Doha’s dugongs are part of a larger group found in the Arabian Gulf and are the second largest group globally, second only to Australia.