The Al Shaheen oil field is located approximately 80 km north-east off the coast of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. It is the largest offshore oil field in Qatar and it is operated by Maersk Oil on behalf of its partner Qatar Petroleum. The Al Shaheen area is a highly productive marine environment due to a combination of complex nutrient rich currents and high temperatures. The diverse marine ecosystem is exemplified by one of the world's largest aggregations of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) that return to this area every summer. The whale shark is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is the largest fish in the world. Having to operate in an area that hosts such a unique natural event poses a challenge to the parties involved but after years of dedicated research the secret behind the annual aggregation of the whale sharks in the Al Shaheen field is now better understood. The knowledge that has been gleaned is currently being used to help prevent significant disturbance to these majestic species and at the same time, maintain an efficient operation. Seismic operations have been scheduled for periods outside of the known aggregation season, and vessel traffic has been restricted in certain areas of the field. These initiatives have revealed that cost effective environmental risk management is achieved by gaining the best possible understanding of the ecosystem that is being impacted. Unless substantial published information is available for the area of concern this will most often require dedicated and continued research efforts. The reward in taking an "Ecosystem Approach", however, is an opportunity to establish collaboration between the industry, regulators and academia, resulting in effective and well-documented mitigation measures.

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