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In search of whalesharks in the most unlikely of places

Some images from a trip I did in 2012, to film whalesharks in the Gulf for the series, Wild Arabia. It was a fascinating story to cover, as wildlife and oil drilling are not things you would usually put together. But scientists, including the Environmental Officers of Maersk, had recently realised that vast numbers of whalesharks were visiting the rigs in summer to feast on fish eggs, that were spawned around the platforms. Oil Platforms, like many similar structures, form artificial reefs and huge numbers of fish were living around the pillars and putting their spawn out into the ocean where the whalesharks would gobble it up. The images here do not do it justice (we were there to film predominantly) for there were often 70-1000 whalesharks all aggregated beside a reef enjoying a meal.

Until recently, Qatar didn’t list whalesharks in their marine census

It seems the whalesharks that visit the Gulf are summer visitors only, tagging studies being carried out by the scientists we worked with, show that they enter the Gulf in spring and leave again in autumn. Any marine census done near the coast, or outside of this window, would’t realise they were even there.

Today the workers on the platforms are engaged in a whaleshark survey, noting the numbers they see on a daily basis, to help with studies of population movements and numbers. They were clearly very proud to be involved with this study and it had opened their eyes further to the life going on around their working base.

For me, this was my first experience of working within an industry such as this. For obvious reasons, the platforms are run as a very ‘tight ship’, clean and well-maintained and with an astute eye for safety of the personnel living and working there.

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