Young Omanis pledge to protect humpback whales

Muscat: Young people representing Oman at a global event that looks at finding solutions to environmental problems have said that their country is very fortunate to be rewarded with plenty of natural beauty and wildlife in its seas.

Taking part at the FIRST Global Challenge in Dubai, five Omanis – Nasser Al Habsi, Ahmed Al Shaqsi, Mulham Al Fahdi, Musharraf Sultan Al Khasibi and Ali Al Lawati – said their objective is to find a sustainable solution towards ocean pollution.

“This team’s goal is to find a real solution to ocean pollution, especially plastic waste that kills whales after they ingest it in large quantities,” Al Habsi said and Al Shaqsi added, “I believe that saving the oceans should be the main priority for countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council region.”

“The sea has always been intertwined in Oman’s history, civilisation, and heritage, is a source of its wealth, a workplace for its seafarers, who have travelled ports across the globe, and a route for its merchant ships that traverse the waters to pursue trade with Asia, Africa, and Europe,” added the team.

Citing the plight of the rare Arabian humpback whale, which is only found in the waters of the Arabian sea, Team Oman said that the ideas that teams came up with to tackle environmental pollution at this year’s event, which has the motto ‘Ocean Opportunities: United by land, connected by oceans’, were of particular importance.

The unique species, discovered in the late 20th century by marine biologists in the Arabian Sea, lives in a genetically isolated group and represents one of the most striking mysteries of the whale world: unlike other whales that roam the world’s oceans in search of food and breeding partners, this whale doesn’t migrate. To preserve such a species is of paramount importance.

“We stress that protecting our seas and oceans requires effective solutions to problems such as global warming and plastic pollution,” added Team Oman.

“The significance of this event goes beyond us trying to claim first place at the tournament.”

The annual competition is the world’s largest gathering of young creative minds in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. This year’s edition has brought together more than 1,500 students from 191 countries to build robots that can clean up the oceans from micro and macro-pollutants.

To get into this year’s FIRST Global Challenge, Team Oman had to pass the national qualifying round with a focus on four areas – programming, design, language, and social networking.

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