Challenge #16 COVID-19 STYLE ~ Whale Sharks and Dugongs

To keep our posts relevant we have updated the June theme and challenges to reflect the current situation.
The original challenge is below.

Read the blog post on the June 2020 Theme ~ HOLIDAYS COVID-19 STYLE

Whale Shark in Qatar by Yousef Al Jaidah

This month our goal is to identify realistic opportunities for everyone to become consciously present; to think more, relate more and open up to the wonders of Jurassic Park in our backyards in Qatar; to notice and enjoy biodiversity in plain sight and create impact in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with concrete daily actions to protect biodiversity, based on personal experience and motivation. This week’s challenge is about dugongs and whale sharks, two species with large aggregations of animals just off Qatar’s coast. 

Mid June – it’s really hot! The place to be is in the water to escape the scorching sun. Whale sharks and dugongs get it right! They are out enjoying themselves in the deep seas off the shores of Qatar.

The Shaheen Oil field is one of the favorite spots for whale sharks to congregate and to feed on fish eggs around the oil platforms, from May to September each year. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world;  they grow as big as 15 meters and weigh as much as 30 tonnes, about 30,000 kilograms. 

Dugongs are also known as sea cows because they graze on seagrass all day long and are strictly herbivorous. They consume about 20-25% of their body weight each day. Slowly moving in shallow waters, dugongs stay close to shore and come up to breathe, but unlike whales and dolphins, they can hold their breath for only about 8 minutes, which means, when they get entangled in old fishing nets they surely drown.

In the Arabian Gulf, a typical adult dugong grows to about 3 meters in length and weighs about 500 kg. This means a whale shark outweighs a dugong by approximately 60 times and can be 5 times as long. Yet, both dugongs and whale sharks are gentle giants of the sea, completely harmless to humans. 

To celebrate biodiversity and protect Qatar’s dugong and whale shark population, get started with these tips:

  • If you or someone you know work on an oil platform, volunteer to record whale shark sightings and support ongoing whale shark research. 
  • Participate in beach cleaning events to remove debris and garbage to keep the waters clean.
  • Minimize plastic use, especially single-use plastic to reduce plastics ending up in oceans and threatening ingestion of plastics.
  • Help plant seagrass beds to protect the feeding grounds of dugongs. 
  • Eliminate all toxic chemicals at home to reduce environmental pollutants reaching the sea. 
  • Participate in public awareness campaigns to protect dugongs and whale sharks as essential components of marine biodiversity in Qatar.
  • Be mindful of underwater noise pollution caused by water motorsports (jet skies and power boats) to protect dugongs and whale sharks.
  • Find alternatives to dredging in shallow waters to protect seagrass beds and thus the dugongs exclusive diet.


Challenge #16 ~ Responsible Travel

Read the blog post on the June Theme ~ HOLIDAYS

Photo by John Reed on Unsplash

Is responsible travel even possible? The sky’s the limit!

“Tourism is explicitly mentioned in three of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with respect to employment (SDG 8), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), and life below water (SDG 14). Aviation plays a pivotal role in supporting SDG 9 which addresses industry, innovation and infrastructure, with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) designated as the custodial agency in charge of SDG 9. However, Travel & Tourism can arguably play a role in directly contributing to or supporting all 17 SDGs.”

Travel and Tourism: A Force for Good in the World, p 27

Living in the Middle East is especially attractive from a travel perspective. Qatar is right smack in the middle of everything. Asia, Africa, Europe, all three continents are within 5 flight hours. The Americas, Australia, and the Pacific Islands are a bit further away however no less convenient to reach via direct flights on some airlines.

All destinations offer special appeal and attractions worthy of discovery. Increasingly, how countries and places present themselves to us as customers in a growing competitive tourism industry can either drive or destroy economic value, growth, and development. As a result of increasing consumer awareness of the impacts of tourism on resources, responsible travel at high standards has and continues to gain more traction and appeal.    

“In 2017, Travel & Tourism’s total impacts (including directly, indirectly and induced) contribution to global GDP was $8.3 trillion, equivalent to 10.4%.
“Travel & Tourism GDP growth (4.6%) outpaced that of the global economy (3.0%) for the seventh year in a row. This means Travel & Tourism GDP growth was 50% higher than that of the global economy.”

Travel and Tourism: A Force for Good in the World

This means where we chose to travel to, what we do while on holiday, and how we spend our money has increasing potential for positive impact and influence on the industry. We can exercise our conscious purchasing power!

“World Travel Market Responsible Tourism unites the global travel industry, companies, organisations and professionals alike, to share sustainable practices and ethical methods and drive the responsible tourism agenda to help build a solid, sustainable future for travel and tourism.”

World Responsible Tourism Awards

Here is what we can do:

  1. Exercise our options on how we spend our money and ‘up-vote’ responsible travel options, which goes way beyond tipping. Because 1 in 10 employees worldwide work in tourism, when we start asking questions about employee conditions, contracts, and labor practices, we positively influence development of the local community, and thereby help in achieving SDG 8, which aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
  2. Check the World Responsible Tourism Awards to identify places and experiences that stand out for their responsible practices and operation and meet our various holiday needs whether we are after culture and heritage experiences, habitat and /or species conservation, sustainable events, etc.
  3. Inquire about reduced waste generation, renewable materials and energy, water conservation, and local food to immediately elevate these issues and promote sustainable practices because we point out what matters to us as customers, while positively influencing local culture and products.


International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Travel And Tourism. A Force for Good in the World, April 2019.