Sharks are regulators of the ocean and vital for their habitats. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) will launch this year’s ‘Shark Week’ in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), and Atlantis, The Palm.

Set to run from July 24 to 31, the Week’s activities aim to educate the public about the key role sharks play in keeping marine ecosystems in balance and the importance of conserving marine biodiversity.

Dr Nasir Sultan, acting assistant undersecretary for the Biodiversity and Marine Life Sector at MOCCAE, said: “Our biodiversity is subject to increasing pressures and is declining rapidly. We address this critical issue through an integrated legislative framework, coupled with community-oriented initiatives and programmes. Acknowledging the need to protect sharks, particularly endangered species, MOCCAE developed the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks that presents concrete steps to enhance shark sustainability in the UAE. We have also issued resolutions that regulate their fishing and trade.”

He added: “Shark Week 2022 perfectly aligns with our goals. We invite all citizens, residents, and visitors to participate in its fun-filled and informative activities that will teach them about the magnificent predators of the ocean and how they can help protect them.”

Public support

Elsayed Mohamed, Middle East and North Africa Regional Director at IFAW, said: “IFAW is cognisant of the UAE’s efforts concerning the protection of biodiversity and applauds the legislative framework set concerning sharks. However, one of the main challenges we are working on with MOCCAE is training the concerned authorities and law enforcement staff about the different endangered shark species and ways to identify them as well as their fins in trade through continuous workshops every year.”

He added: “It is unrealistic to expect the governments to save animals and their natural habitats alone without the support of the public. Shark Week is a wonderful opportunity to ingrain the love for conservation in the citizens of the world, especially youth, to urge them to join this crucial urgent mission to save wildlife and their natural habitats.”

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Ahmed Al Hashmi, executive director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said: “We are very pleased to be aligned with MOCCAE and our partners on Shark Week, as the conservation and protection of biodiversity is one of the main strategic priorities of EAD. Sharks are a very important species to us, and we would like the general public to be more informed about them. We are also proud of our team, who are specialised in shark research and science, and their studies contribute to the understanding of different types of fish and their behaviour. As part of the activities of Shark Week, we will be sharing our precious and vital scientific information, positioning EAD as a leader in research that helps us develop relevant policies regarding biodiversity so that it may thrive and exist in abundance in Abu Dhabi waters.”

He added: “Additionally, EAD, in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), published a report on the status and level of threats to shark species in the Arabian Sea and its surrounding areas. On this occasion, we would like to thank the community and fishermen for their cooperation and support for the conservation efforts of shark species and for adhering to the relevant legislation.”

Virtual workshops

Shark Week will kick off with two virtual workshops under the theme ‘Sharks in the UAE’, targeting fishermen as well as the general public, on Sunday and Monday. The agenda will feature separate sessions in English and Arabic, presented by biodiversity and fisheries experts from MOCCAE, IFAW, Atlantis, The Palm, and EAD. The first workshop will focus on interesting facts about sharks and global trends in shark fin trade. Meanwhile, the second workshop will explore topics such as international conventions and UAE legislation protecting sharks, identification of protected shark species that are permanently banned from fishing, and safe handling and release of shark and ray bycatch.

On June 28, the Atlantis Conference Centre will host a free-to-attend public awareness session entitled ‘Sharks of the Arabian Gulf’.

From Saturday onwards throughout the week, the shark theme will dominate at the Lost Chambers Aquarium at Atlantis, The Palm. The organisers have prepared a wide range of “edutainment” activities for all ages, including informative talks and the Shark Quest trivia quiz, and distribute fun giveaways to raise awareness about the importance of shark conservation and address common misconceptions about sharks. To mark the occasion, the aquarium will also launch two new shark-focused offerings – the Shark Specialist educational programme for ages 8-14 and the Shark Snorkel experience for above six years.