Oban and Abu Dhabi link to save marine life

A marine research service based near Oban is opening a branch office in Abu Dhabi. Picture: Getty
A marine research service based near Oban is opening a branch office in Abu Dhabi. Picture: Getty
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Both places are surrounded by islands and offer a wealth of pleasure cruises to the tourists who flock to their shores.

But the similarity between Oban, with its quaint Victorian facade, and Abu Dhabi, with its shiny skyscrapers, ends there.

However, a new link is emerging between these two most unlikely bedfellows, with the formation of a business partnership stretching all the way from Scotland’s gateway to the isles to the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates.

From its base on the outskirts of Oban, population 8,500, the trading arm of the highly acclaimed Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is preparing to open a branch office in Abu Dhabi, home to 921,000 residents.

SAMS Research Services Ltd is on a mission to help the oil- rich Arabs protect their marine resources and expand their expertise. The company aims to develop commercial, research and educational links between the group in Oban and clients in the UAE.

Dr Tracy Shimmield, managing director of the research company, said the relationship between the two places has grown over the last four years.

It evolved after a chance discussion between Robert Hudson, who then worked in the UAE, and a SAMS worker, about the possible gap in the Emirates for advanced marine science 

Dr Shimmield said: “After that we began working with the UAE’s Western Region Development Council and the big vision is to replicate what we have at SAMS.

“What they are wanting to do now is find out how to manage their Gulf, because they want to have it for future generations.

“They want to expand aquaculture for food security, so that they have got lots of fish.”

Dr Shimmield, who has visited Abu Dhabi several times, added: “A lot of it is to do with the fact that they want to ensure that they have got the place in good shape to hand over to the next generation.

“The marine environment in the Gulf is under threat from climate change, sea level rises, the impact of temperature rise, desalination plants that discharge into the sea and building development and expansion.

“We are going to collect data for them, for industry and the government.”

Dr Shimmield flew out to Abu Dhabi last month to sign a sponsorship agreement with His Excellency Eid Bakheet Al Mazrouei at the home of the British ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Dominic Jermey.

The deal was clinched at a reception to celebrate the establishment of an Abu Dhabi branch office of SAMS Research Services Ltd, a company which raises income for SAMS, which is a registered charity.

The sponsorship agreement is part of the long-term initiative to build a marine economy in the UAE utilising a regional workforce, based on the model of the Scottish Marine Institute and the adjacent European Science Park, which offers laboratory and office space for marine science companies.

Dr Shimmield said: “In about 25 years we would hope that it would be Emirate run.”

SAMS is ultimately planning to help educate a whole new generation of marine scientists from the UAE.