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The press conference to announce the Qatar Forum for Whale Shark Conservation

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change announced this morning the organization of the Qatar Forum for Whale Shark Conservation 2023, which will take place from May 22nd to May 23rd, at the Marine Biology Research Center in the Ras Matbakh area, North Qatar. The forum is being held in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The forum will bring together more than 11 participants, including experts and specialists in marine environment, marine biology, and whale shark conservation from both within and outside Qatar, representing several different countries. The forum will feature workshops and sessions that will discuss various studies and research papers, focusing on conservation methods for the endangered whale shark species.

This was announced during a press conference organized by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change this morning. The conference was attended by Mr. Mohammed Al Khonji, Chairman of the Qatar Forum for Whale Shark Conservation Committee and Director of Wildlife Development Department, as well as Mr. Farhoud Al-Hajri, Director of Public Relations and Communications at the Ministry. Local media outlets were also present at the conference.

Mr. Farhoud Al-Hajri initially emphasized that the Qatar Forum for Whale Shark Conservation 2023 is organized by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, under the sponsorship of Qatar Airways and the Seashore Group. He highlighted that the forum would bring together a large number of local and international researchers interested in marine life protection and biodiversity, as well as specialists in marine sciences and whale shark conservation.

During his speech at the press conference, Mr. Farhoud Al-Hajri highlighted the importance of whale sharks in global environmental balance, particularly due to Qatar being home to some of the largest aggregations of these creatures in the world. He affirmed that the forum would significantly contribute to supporting research on whale sharks through the extensive participation of international experts. Furthermore, he emphasized that the forum would facilitate the exchange of information and research related to this species, serving as a global platform to study the most effective conservation methods for preserving the life of these magnificent creatures.

Mr. Mohammed Al Khonji, Chairman of the Qatar Forum for Whale Shark Conservation Committee and Director of the Wildlife Development Department at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change affirmed that the goal of this forum is to enhance cooperation among regional countries to effectively conserve this endangered species, which holds significant importance in the balance and stability of the marine environment.

During his speech at the press conference, Mr. Mohammed Al Khonji highlighted that the forum contributes to raising awareness about the importance of protecting whale sharks. This is achieved by shedding light on their environmental, economic, and cultural significance. The aim is to enable decision-makers to take necessary actions to preserve them in the Gulf region and beyond. He mentioned that the forum’s first day will feature three sessions with the participation of local and international experts and researchers. He further explained that such forums provide an opportunity for stakeholders, including researchers and others, to share the latest findings on whale sharks, including their life patterns, behavior, and distribution. This contributes to establishing a clear vision and a more comprehensive approach to their conservation.

The Director of the Wildlife Development Department mentioned that the discussion sessions will contribute to identifying the major threats facing whale sharks in the Gulf region and globally, such as bycatch and habitat destruction. The sessions will also focus on understanding their life cycles, which will lead to providing further recommendations and solutions for preserving this important species in our marine environment. By comprehending these threats, participants will be able to collectively contribute to developing more effective strategies to address and mitigate the impacts of these threats.

Mr. Mohammed Al Khonji further elaborated on the objectives of the forum, emphasizing that it will work to enhance cooperation and partnerships among participants to foster communication, idea exchange, and collaboration in future efforts. This will be achieved by bringing together individuals and organizations with a shared interest in conserving whale sharks. The forum will also aid in building stronger partnerships and increasing the impact of conservation efforts for whale sharks. In the context of his speech, he explained that through the sessions, it will be possible to explore the potential development of a regional strategy for whale shark conservation. This strategy aims to identify prioritized areas, set common goals, and develop a joint action plan to achieve these objectives.

The forum will be attended by several experts and specialists in the field of marine environment, marine biology, and whale shark conservation. These participants will represent Gulf countries as well as neighboring nations.

The importance of the forum arises from Qatar’s commitment to environmental conservation and living organisms. Qatari waters witness the largest gathering of whale sharks in the region, specifically in the northeastern part of its territorial waters. The average number of whale sharks inhabiting Qatari waters is estimated to be around 600, a count that has not been documented anywhere else in the world.

This forum aligns with the state’s commitment and complements its efforts towards achieving the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all United Nations member states. Specifically, it contributes to Goal 14, which focuses on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas, and marine resources to achieve sustainable development.

The forum’s logo was unveiled during the press conference, consisting of an illustration of a large fish with its offspring, symbolizing a female whale shark with its young. The image signifies the importance of preserving this species and ensuring its continued reproduction. It serves as a direct call to governments and environmental stakeholders to support and facilitate the necessary conditions for its reproduction. The waves and blue color gradients in the logo represent the blueness of the seas through which whale sharks navigate during their continuous journeys.

The presence of spots on the back of the whale shark holds significant meaning. It emphasizes the exceptional nature of this fish and the uniqueness of each individual, much like how every person has their own distinct fingerprint that sets them apart from others. These spots also symbolize the reproductive aspect, as the forum aims to explore further the secrets of the reproduction of these species.