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Whale sharks in the Persian Gulf – from a platform

Whale sharks have always been present in the Persian Gulf. Researcher David Robinson has studied the ecology of whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman for a number of years. His research is supported by the Qatar Ministry of Environment, Emirates Diving Association and Sharkquest Arabia Initiative. The Ph.D. research will be made up of population dynamics, satellite tagging to investigate the movements of the sharks, plankton sampling to find out what the sharks are feeding on and remote satellite imagery to relate encounters to specific environmental conditions.

It was known, that the workers on the Maersk Platforms near Qatar often observed whale sharks. David decided to integrate observation from oil platforms in his research. In March this year, he published his paper “Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, Aggregate around Offshore Platforms in Qatari Waters of the Arabian Gulf to Feed on Fish Spawn”.


Photograph by Warren Baverstock (

Most whale sharks were seen between May and August (Figure 3), and three sharks in early September. No sharks were reported between October and December even though the number of platform workers remained the same. The maximum estimated number observed over a single month was 178, recorded during June. The maximum number of sharks observed by platform workers at any one time was estimated to be 40 animals.
Plankton sampling suggested that aggregations in Al Shaheen Oil field is related to mackerel tuna spawning events, but further research is needed.

Recently, his team uploaded a wonderful video to YouTube: Ocean Wanderers – Whale Shark Documentary, produced by Myriad Global Media. Fantastic footage, but also a lot of interesting information about whale shark tagging, identification and species information!

Towering underwater structures of the coast of Qatar are home to oilworkers above the waves. Beneath is a gathering place for giant fish, a wonder of the world’s oceans: Whale sharks, the largest known extant fish species.
This documentary follows the story of the Research trip undertaken by the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre (MO-RTC) in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment’s Whale Shark Research Project.

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