It is illegal to catch sharks from the beginning of January to the end of April in the United Arab Emirates and yet thousands of them are landed during that time. Speaking to a delegation of international conservationists at the four day Shark Conservation Arabia workshop in Dubai, marine biologist Rima Jabado explained that during visits to shark landing sites in four Emirates, she witnessed scores of fishermen pulling in large sharks that are then sold for their fins and meat. But nobody feared a governmental backlash, since enforcement is so weak.
“It’s not as if they are doing it and hiding it; they’re doing it in broad daylight in front of the fisheries observers,” The National quoted Jabado in a recent report. “The law is there and no one is enforcing it.”
Stanley Hartman of the Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) confirmed Jabado’s concerns, adding that 60% of the annual shark catch takes place during the four months when fishing is banned.
The Gulf is one of the main Middle Eastern hubs for shark fins, which are exported to Hong Kong. An image published last year of a hammerhead shark and a pile of her 45 pups lying dead at a market in Dubai remains one of the most disturbing visuals of the industry’s destructive nature.
But without adequate regulation, profit will continue to drive the industry. One large shark fetches over $300, according to Hartman, which is a significant figure for poor fishermen.
Roughly 2,500 sharks were caught during the closed season last year, although that number is smaller than previous years. However, as Jabado puts it, “we’re still not at zero.”
“As many as 47 sharks and rays are threatened in this region, with this workshop we are taking an important step toward the sustainable management of shark fisheries and fin trade,” said Dr. Nick Dulvy from IUCN.
Compounding the problem, roughly half of the fishermen scouring UAE waters for sharks are unlicensed, even though the Ministry of Environment and Water, which instituted the ban in 2008, issues free licenses.
“However much we want to deny it, we do not have sufficient enforcement of the shark fishing,” said Thabit Al Abdessalaam of EAD.
“Rather than us denying, we need to do something to correct that.”
:: The National
Image credit: dead sharks in the UAE, Shutterstock