A "scared" whale shark has been rescued after getting lost in Dubai Creek.
The three-metre long juvenile whale shark was saved in a joint operation between the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Dubai Police and the Marine Environment Protection Association.
After receiving an alert that a shark had lost its way into the creek, a team of expert divers were dispatched by the Ministry.
The rescue mission was complicated by the shark’s state of fear and anxiety.
Hiba Al Shehhi, acting director of the Biodiversity Department at the Ministry, said: “I thank everyone who was involved in the rescue operation.
“The collaboration among the teams was exemplary and saved the scared baby shark.”
Divers tasked with the rescue split up into three groups onboard two boats for the rescue procedure, which took five hours.
They managed to get the juvenile whale shark onto a stretcher that extended below the water between the two boats and extracted it from the creek, moving it slowly back into the Arabian Gulf.
Lt Col Rashid Al Ayel, head of the maritime security section at the Port Police Station, Dubai Police, who oversaw the rescue operation, applauded the efforts of the teams at the ministry and the Marine Environment Protection Association.
He said: “Transporting the juvenile whale shark across a distance of 13 kilometres from Dubai Creek to the Arabian Gulf was a highly delicate and strenuous process, and everyone involved was incredibly patient. Seeing the shark safely back in its natural habitat was worth all the trouble.”
Last year, a four-metre whale shark was spotted near Jumeirah Fisherman's Harbour.
Marine wildlife experts believe the world’s biggest fish, which can grow to a length of 12 metres, was attracted to the bright lights of the city.
"Whale sharks are found in the Arabian Gulf and it is not rare to spot one near the city," said Dr David Robinson, who runs the shark-spotting website sharkwatcharabia.com, at the time.
“Smaller whale sharks tend to be more coastal and are attracted to the marina because of the bright lights at night, which is what I believe led this particular one to come close.”
Whale sharks are harmless to humans, Dr Robinson said.
Earlier this year, the ministry launched the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2018-2021, which offers steps to conserve and sustain the 72-known species of sharks found in the UAE.
Coinciding with the launch of the plan, the ministry issued the UAE Shark Assessment Report, the first national overview of shark research and protective measures to safeguard populations in the UAE. The document acts as a database to support the execution of NPOA.