As a Saadiyat local, marine enthusiast and general beach babe, it took very little persuasion for me to be lured to a lecture on the beach!
Sustainability Week Abu Dhabi (20 – 22 January 2014) saw a packed schedule of lectures, screenings and talks take place at key locations across Abu Dhabi. My favourite were the ‘feet in the sand’ lectures at my local Blue flag beach – Saadiyat – managed by Bake, where local experts and marine biologists shared their knowledge about the aquatic life found in Arabian waters.
The programme cast off with a screening of the documentary Planet Ocean at Monte-Carlo Beach Club, Saadiyat. Filmed during a two and a half year period by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot with the support of Tara Expeditions and Omega, the film was first shown during Earth Summit 2012 in Rio and showcases stunning images of our remarkable oceans, spanning more than 20 countries.
Other highlights of the week included two beautifully curated photographic showcases featuring images from the expedition – ‘The secret world of plankton’ and ‘A journey into the coral reef’.
I also joined three lectures in the sand – the first, a talk by Himansu Sekhar Das of the Threatened Species and Marine Biodiversity unit at the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi focused on Hawksbill turtles and the dugong. It was news to me that the elusive and mythical dugong was found in the UAE. With a population of 7,500 in Arabian waters (second only to Australia) these sluggish pachyderms graze 12 hours a day on seagrass and reach a length of up to 3.5 metres. Ironic to think that these charming, but slightly overweight dugongs are considered the inspiration for mermaids!
Next was a sobering talk by Dr. John Burt of NYU Abu Dhabi about the coral reefs of the Arabian Gulf, followed by the introduction of a new initiative by Dr. Ada Natoli of UAE Dolphin Project whereby citizen marine enthusiasts can contribute to a dolphin database and help estimate the population of resident dolphins and identify the patterns of transitory whales and other cetaceans.
Whilst the event only took place during one week, it was a fantastic chance to learn more about the ocean and the aquatic life and how we can all help – 52 weeks of the year.