Friday, October 12, 2012

Sharks of Arabia Protected!

In the midst of all the turmoil occurring right now in the middle east, it appears that one Arab nation has decided to step up and help take a stand for sharks! The United Arab Emirates has decided that the time is now to protect sharks in the Persian Gulf. Not much is known about shark populations in the gulf, but many of the Ocean's apex predators have been spotted there. it is also one of the few places where groups of female whale sharks have been observed in groups. With an unknown shark population the gulf saw 20,000 tonnes of shark removed in 2011. UAE has now opened the door for the other GCC nations to follow suite in creating protection for sharks. These countries include Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. If these nations follow UAE the Persian Gulf would become an area of the world where sharks are a priority.

Despite not knowing the populations of the sharks in it's waters, UAE had laid out the following rules in regards to shark fishing in it's waters in 1999...

Article 23: It is illegal to conduct fishing operations using banned fishing gear or equipment
Article 24: Fishing is impermissible during fertilisation or breeding season (January to April)
Article 26: It is prohibited to fishing for sharks using trawling nets, bottom nets, nylon or drift nets
Article 34: It is prohibited to use explosives, crackers or materials that are harmful, toxic or anaesthetic to aquatics
Article 44: It is forbidden to catch living aquatic creatures to extract their eggs, skins, fins and any other parts (catch must be landed wholly at fish markets).
Article 44: It is forbidden to throw the dead fish waste and carcasses of whales and sharks into the water.
— D.B
Source: Ministry of Environment and Water
The following is a 2011 update that adds the following rules. 
Only launch styled vessels can be used to capture sharks in UAE waters
Vessels must be licensed by the ministry
Fishing capture limited to using only hooks style 1 and 2 and hooks must not exc eed 100 per vessel
Shark capture is prohibited from January to end of April during shark breeding season
Capture of whale sharks and saw fishes prohibited
UAE has set an amazing example for the rest of the Arab world as to what a serious protection plan for sharks should look like. Shark fishing in the Persian Gulf does occur and chances are shark fishing will never be illegal in the Gulf, so this is one of the next best things. The last point I kind of highlighted for a special reason. Saw fishes are endangered so the ban on fishing for them is very much so warranted. The banning of catching whale sharks is also an incredible thing to see. Again, the Persian Gulf is one of the only areas in the world where groups of female whale sharks have been observed. It's importance in the research of these animals is incredible because of that fact!

Like in the United States, shark fishing is something that is not going to go away, but if we can limit the number of sharks being killed through means such as the ones listed, we can begin to save these animals in our own waters. Simply banning shark finning isn't enough, time will tell if the restrictions UAE has put on shark fishing will preserve the shark populations in the gulf. If shark populations appear to stabilize, then UAE's plan could be a model for the rest of the world!

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