Dubai: A newly formed UAE shark conservation group is working toward concrete steps to protect Gulf shark stocks from being depleted due to high demand for shark-fins in the Far East.
The Elasmobranch Protection Group UAE (EPG-UAE) will hold its first public meeting on August 1 in Dubai to discuss new eco measures to stave off further declines of Gulf sharks.
Scientifically referred to as elasmobranch, sharks and their populations in the Gulf could see serious rates of decline in the years ahead if current rates of capture continue, scientists say.
Dubai was listed as the fifth largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong dried-food markets in 2008 where the shark appendages are sold for shark-fin soup, a luxury broth served at dinner functions across the Far East.
Melanie Swan, director Global Ocean — a UK-based conservation group — helped form the EPG-UAE networking group to bring together like-minded marine scientists already working on shark conservation across the Emirates.
The new group is already working on two chief thrusts to help conserve sharks, Swan told Gulf News, including submission of a call for support to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global ecological group that has worked since 1948 to find solutions to environmental threats.
Swan said that “following on from the August 1 public meeting, we will put to the IUCN meeting in September a two- to three-page document asking for their international support and a letter of recommendation. We are also looking into the feasibility of creating the first National Management Conservation Programme for Sharks in the Middle East and working out the costs of implementation.”
The key to establishing a new management plan lies with senior officials within the UAE Ministry of Environment who have banned shark finning and enforce a strict shark fishing season from June to December only.
Shark-fishing laws in UAE waters force commercial fisheries companies to take whole sharks only in order to harvest shark fins, limiting the overall numbers of sharks taken each year.
“The EPG-UAE recognises the importance of data and wants to work with government departments to facilitate a national management plan for sharks in the Middle East,” Swan said. “This could enable shark fishing to be sustainably managed and enforced in the near future, and is something we may need to fundraise for.”
Swan said that despite strict UAE seasonal fishing laws, rising demand for shark fins is leading to more pressure on sharks throughout the entire Gulf.
“Asia’s rising middle classes has led to an unsupportable demand for shark fins for soup which has increased the slaughter of sharks to such a great extent that 16 species of sharks, fins and rays in the Gulf are IUCN Red Listed as vulnerable, endangered or threatened worldwide. We need to act now to protect these and many other marine species in this region.”