Following a sustained campaign from environmentalists, the Atlantis resort in Dubai has released a captive whale shark back into the ocean.
Sammy – a four metre female whale shark – was released back into the Arabian Gulf in conjunction with Atlantis Fish Husbandry Team. The young shark was tagged with an electronic device, allowing scientists to monitor her progress.
The release comes almost a year after popular local paper Gulf News led a campaign by thousands of Dubai residents calling for the hotel to release Sammy.
The newspaper had previously branded the animal’s captivity “cruel, beyond belief”.
“After several months of planning, Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai has returned a female whale shark to the waters of the Arabian Gulf from where she was rescued,” read a press release.
“The Atlantis Fish Husbandry Team utilised their experience and skill to save the animal in compliance with all CITIES regulations.”
Whale sharks are listed in appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which stipulates that they can only be held for scientific purposes provided that it does not harm the survival of the species.
They are considered an endangered species.
“We will continue to track her progress through a tagging programme co-developed with The Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida (the world’s largest scientific research organization dedicated to the study of sharks and their relatives),” said Steve Kaiser, vice president, Marine and Science Engineering.
“This will give us the opportunity to continue to learn from her and share that research within the whale shark community.”
The Atlantis resort on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah houses a one trillion litre aquarium, which is home to over 65,000 aquatic residents.
However, environmentalists began calling for the shark’s release shortly after the hotel announced it had rescued it from the shallow waters off Dubai’s coast in 2008.
Atlantis’ Dubai location has also criticised by environmental campaigners in the past.
In 2007, international activists protested at the sale of dolphins that were shipped 30 hours by plane from the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
The dolphins are now housed in a man-made lagoon where they swim with hotel guests.