Following the recent revelation that the UAE remains an important market hub for the Far Eastern delicacy of shark fins, and UAE divers trying to crack down on the trade of shark fins, we spoke to the International Fund for Animal Welfare about the need to end shark finning and the important role that fisherman must play in protecting sharks- for their own sake.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare was setup in 1969 is one of the world’s largest animals and conservation charities. The Middle East branch works on various projects such as training customs officers to help prevent illegal wildlife trade and promoting high standards for animal welfare, wildlife and habitat conservation in the region. I spoke to Elsayed Mohamed, programme manager for IFAW in the Middle East to find out more about their work to end shark finning.
Aburawa: How did the practice and popularity of shark finning emerge in the Middle East?
Mohamed: There is no exact information on the emergence of shark finning in the Middle East. Catching sharks has been a part of fishing activities for centuries but shark finning is not related to any local tradition here in the Arabian Gulf. The shark finning activities is practiced only for export of fins to the Far East to be used in shark fin soup.
IFAW was recently granted $7,000 from the Ford Motor company conservation programme to help stop shark finning. What do you hope to do with the money to help stop shark finning in UAE?
We are planning to organize a workshop about conservation of sharks in Yemen in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment in Yemen. The aim of this workshop is to produce recommendations for strengthening shark catch legislation and reaching a shark conservation plan in Yemen. We are waiting for a suitable time to start or preparation for the workshop due to the current unrest in Yemen.
Although shark finning was banned in 2008 in UAE, the shark fin trade continues unabated. Do you think that more legal action is needed or useful to halt shark finning for good?
Yes I think there is need for more legal action to implement this legislation and more legislation is needed to protect more species of shark from being over fished in general. But the important point here is UAE is used for re-exporting activities of the shark fin trade to the Far East. many countries in the region are practicing shark finning intensively either due to lack of legislation or lack of implementation of their legislation and exporting the shark fin to UAE to be re-exported to the far east.
Finally, what can ordinary people do to help stop the shark finning trade?
It is not the matter of ordinary people here in UAE or Arabia, it is the fishermen and motorboats owner who need to realise that they are depleting their own resource of sharks. Also it is not reasonable to prevent shark finning altogether, as the fins are a part of the fish and should be utilized like any other part of the fish.
The solution to this problem should be based on establishing shark catch quota for each species. Catch quotas should be based on an appropriate regional conservation strategy and monitoring regime for the species concerned and are not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.
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