x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Minister says Atlantis shark will be released

The minister for the environment, Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, said yesterday that the whale shark being kept at the Atlantis hotel aquarium will be freed.

Environmentalists have called on the managers of the massive new marine-themed resort to release the whale shark they are holding inside a giant fish tank.
Environmentalists have called on the managers of the massive new marine-themed resort to release the whale shark they are holding inside a giant fish tank.

DUBAI // The minister for the environment, Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, said yesterday that the whale shark being kept at the Atlantis hotel aquarium will be freed, but not until hotel staff have finished treating it. The shark, which is four metres long, was caught off Jebel Ali on Aug 27 but the circumstances of the animal's capture were unclear.

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

"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." He said the shark was useful for educating children and that the hotel was looking after it well. 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. eharnan@thenational.ae