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Sun 19 Oct 2008 07:15 AM

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Minister insists Atlantis whale shark will be released

Government official steps into row over rescued fish held at hotel's aquarium.

A whale shark being kept at the Atlantis Hotel aquarium - despite protests from animal rights campaigners - will be freed, a top UAE government official has said.

The minister for the environment, Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, said the shark would be released as soon as aquarium staff have finished treating it.

The shark, which is four metres long, was caught off Jebel Ali on August 27 but the circumstances of the animal’s capture were unclear, UAE daily The National reported on Sunday.

Last week, an Atlantis official refused to be drawn on whether the shark would be released in a local radio interview.

It has been in captivity for about 40 days, sparking protest because of the whale shark’s status as a vulnerable species as classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The Emirates Marine Environmental Group has called for the release of the whale shark.

It has voiced its concern over the status of the captive fish, and hopes that Atlantis will tag and release it into its natural habitat as soon as possible.

Dr Fahad said ministerial officials had met the Atlantis staff and discussed the animal’s future.

“We had some meetings with the management at the hotel who are taking care of it and, at the moment, it is being kept in for treatment. It is being taken care of, so is not in any danger,” he told the paper.

“It will be released but it will be kept for some time yet and I cannot say when it will be released. It will be kept until it is in good health.”

The whale shark has appeared in newspapers around the world. Late last week, the campaign to release it gained momentum when the Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG) and its president, Ali al Suweidi, voiced concern.

The shark is being kept in Ambassador Lagoon, an 11 million-litre tank with marine life from the Arabian Gulf.

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leo fewtrell 11 years ago

I would suggest that anyone with the whale's interests at heart should not campaign too eagerly for it's release from Atlantis. There is an old saying that we should be careful what we wish for in case it comes true. If the whale is released soon I would fully expect to see it beached up on the shoreline after ingesting all the filth and crap in the sea currently. Better a life in an aquarium for a while than an early death in a sewer.

Huzaifa 11 years ago

Why are people making such a big issue about the Whale Shark, Just because the fish is big, we are making such a big hue & cry about it. There are 20,000 other fish in the tank, why isnt everyone asking these to be freed as well........ Silly Willy !!!!

GB 11 years ago

The best treatment is back in the sea where is belongs. How can a hotel look after a fish so big? What really surprised me is the story about the capture. You find a whale in distress in shallow waters (how do you gauge distress?). As jam jars are not at hand as it is sway bigger than your average tadpole, you organise a crane, and then, instead of releasing it in deeper waters, you take it to the Atlantis?? And we are all so stupid to believe that one!

GA 11 years ago

The capture of the whale shark is simply to make money! Atlantis want it as an attraction to generate income. I and several of my friends were booked to stay at Atlantis in mid November, but yesterday we cancelled this as a protest against the exploitation of this wonderful creature. We are not going and if you feel for this creature dont go either. Has anyone told Kylie and all the other celebs about this???

C.B.Osborne 11 years ago

I am appalled by the imprisonment of the whale shark in the Atlantic Aquarium for so-called `educational purposes.` This animal needs plankton to feed on and ideally it should not have been in the gulf at all as the open ocean is its natural habitat. The late, great nature lover Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, would be horrified to know of this unique creature being confined in an aquarium.

Graham Plater 11 years ago

As usual, money dictates events in Dubai. To keep the whale shark in the so-called Ambassador Lagoon - a deluxe puddle - is utterly shameful. Bad enough for the dolphins who will spend their short lives there entertaining the mindless. Who is the management of Atlantis trying to fool by claiming that it's essentially there for it's own protection whilst the staff are "gathering data on swim patterns, feeding and behaviour"? What are they going to learn from watching a plankton feeder swim endlessly in a tight circle? Whale sharks are meant to roam the oceans, and not to bring cash to hoteliers selling cheap thrills! Show some respect for nature - take it to Mussandam and set it free. And leave off the blue whales...

C.B.Osborne 11 years ago

Dubai is not enjoying the most salubrious reputation abroad and the longer the whale shark is kept in confinement, the more people will be made aware that `it` will do anything to attract attention and a fast buck. I am very pleased to read of people cancelling their bookings at the Atlantis. This is the best way to deal with them. Well done!