Miral and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment have launched Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, the first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre in the MENA region.

The 8,602 m2 centre will be a key contributor to marine-life conservation in both the UAE and the wider region by conducting integrated research, rescue, rehabilitation, return and education programmes.

Attended by Her Excellency Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Miral, and a number of UAE officials and senior representatives from SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the centre’s opening is a commitment to the UAE’s declaration of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability.  The centre’s efforts will aim to improve the public’s knowledge and commitment to the conservation of the region’s marine wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems, leveraging the experience and knowledge gained from SeaWorld’s nearly 60 years of marine animal care, rescue, rehabilitation and conservation, to the region.

His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak said: “We are very proud to begin 2023, the UAE’s Year of Sustainability, with opening the first dedicated marine research and rescue centre in the region, Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Abu Dhabi. This is a cornerstone in the emirate’s journey of education and conservation, inspiring the next generation of marine scientists to learn more about Abu Dhabi’s impactful long-term vision of protecting our marine wildlife and their habitats. Together with SeaWorld, we will be pushing the limits of science and conservation to become the foremost knowledge hub for marine scientists, not only in the UAE, but also in the wider region.

“With this country’s deep ties to the sea, today’s inauguration is the perfect embodiment of the Year of Sustainability’s theme ‘Today for Tomorrow,’ and is our commitment to forging a sustainable future for our future generations.” 

Led by a team of dedicated marine scientists, zoologists and subject matter experts in research, rescue and animal care, the centre will play an important role in research and conservation efforts in the region. The centre’s research team will conduct fundamental and applied studies focusing on the marine ecology of the Arabian Gulf covering topics such as marine biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, sensitive wildlife conservation, critical habitats restoration, fisheries, pollution and wildlife health. 

Scott Ross, Chairman of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said: “We are very proud of our partnership with Miral in bringing this first-of-its-kind center to the UAE. Today’s inauguration is many years in the making and we are eager to begin our work together to advance the conservation of the region’s amazing and extraordinarily diverse marine life. For nearly 60 years, SeaWorld has maintained its unwavering mission and steadfast commitment in protecting marine animals and their ecosystems and inspires others to act and care for marine life. Extending this legacy here in the UAE is important for global conservation and vital to honouring the history of the sea – of renowned traditional importance in the UAE and wider region.”

Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Abu Dhabi is the newest SeaWorld research and rescue center, and the first outside of the US. The centre’s inauguration makes it part of a global network and leverages the experience and knowledge gained from SeaWorld’s nearly 60 years of marine animal care, rescue, rehabilitation and conservation to the region. SeaWorld is one of the largest marine animal rescue organisations in the world and its rescue teams are on-call 365 days a year to respond to animals in need. Since 1965, SeaWorld has rescued more than 40,000 animals, and Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Abu Dhabi aims to pioneer a marine animal rescue network supporting animals in need in the UAE as well as the wider region.  

Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Abu Dhabi’s aims to rescue sick, injured and orphaned marine animals in the Arabian Gulf and to provide life-saving rehabilitation with the goal of returning healthy animals back to their natural habitats. To facilitate this goal, the centre will have a fleet of rescue vehicles that includes two custom-made rescue boats and a state-of-the art veterinary hospital for triage of animals in critical condition. The centre will also have over 25 rescue pools, from large pools for marine mammals to smaller pools for fish, invertebrates and marine reptiles. Two of the larger pools are equipped with lifting floors, which will make access for treatment easier and less disruptive for the animals. An onsite lab at the center is also equipped with advanced rescue and rehabilitation capabilities including the ability to conduct in-house pathology analysis for wildlife. 

The centre will also focus on applied research studies for marine ecosystem restoration with aquaculture-based projects including fish propagation, seagrass cultivation, coral reproduction as well as field projects focusing on critical habitats of Arabian Gulf waters such as seagrass, mangroves, oyster beds and coral reefs. This research will only be made possible through some of the best subject matter researchers and scientists and by utilising the state-of-the-art laboratories and infrastructure of the centre, including three dry laboratories, a wet laboratory, and a 345m3 aquaculture facility which includes live feed culture rooms, brood stock pools and larvae culture pools. The center’s research team will conduct most of these studies by use of its 12.5m research vessel decked with the latest field equipment.

As part of its commitment to enhancing public knowledge and inspiring the next generation of marine biologists, the centre’s education department will bring together a skilled team of marine scientists and a dedicated team of marine animal rescue experts. Along with a joint SeaWorld Abu Dhabi team of expert educators, the center has a dry classroom and a wet classroom fully equipped for scientific experimental activities in addition to a high-tech auditorium which can seat 180 people. The centre will conduct workshops and lectures, both on its premises and in schools, offering learning and training opportunities for students as well as educators in the areas of marine life science and conservation.