Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Shark hunting restricted in Gulf

The Ministry of Environment and Water moves to protect endangered species.

ABU DHABI // Restrictions have been placed on shark hunting off the coast of the UAE to halt a rapid decline in numbers. The Ministry of Environment and Water has limited the hunting of all species to those with a motorboat and licence, according to the state news agency, WAM. Only one boat per licence will be permitted to hunt at any given time and it must be driven by its owner or his next of kin. The new law also restricts the number of traps a licence-holder can use to 100. Shark stocks around the world have been threatened by over fishing. However, a bad "public image" has produced antipathy to their protection.

The ministry said it was banning the hunting of sharks solely for their fins, which are used as the main ingredient in shark-fin soup in many Asian cuisines. It has also asked fishermen to bring shark remains to the port for disposal, rather than to throw them back into the sea. Drew Gardner, an associate professor of biology in the department of natural science and public health at Zayed University, said most of the sharks seen off the coast of the UAE are not a threat to humans.

"Sharks worldwide are in really big trouble," he said. "Mainly because they are dried for their shark fins and sold for a lot of money in China and Taiwan for soup." Fin fishing used to be more common in Oman before regulations were introduced to protect the species, he said. "In Oman it used to be incredible. People would cut off the fins and leave the rest of the sharks to rot," Mr Gardner said. "I used to live there a few years ago and you would walk along some of the beaches and they would be covered in rotting sharks with their dorsal fins cut off."

Humans kill as many as 73 million sharks a year according to the UAE's Environmental and Agricultural Information Centre, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Environment and Water. They are hunted for more than their fins. Shark liver oil is used in cosmetics and drugs. Shark skin is a popular leather and sandpaper. Teeth and jaws are sold as jewellery and curios and cartilage has been ground into powder and marketed as an anti-cancer drug.

Because the fish are widely feared, few fisheries adequately monitor or study sharks but some species have reported a decline of up to 90 per cent over the past three decades. They are also vulnerable to environmental damage, coastal development, pollution and the impact fisheries have on their prey. In recent years, the ministry has recorded the emergence of baby sharks on the coast of the Gulf. Often these small, harmless sharks seek shallow waters to find a meal of fish, squid and rays and to avoid being eaten by larger predators.

The ban extends to whale sharks, a filter feeder which is the largest species of fish alive. Although attacks by the creature is rare, the ministry advises swimmers to avoid the water if they spot the fish. The ministry did not advise shark hunters of potential fines for illegally catching the fish, nor did it explain the procedure for obtaining a licence. The decree issued by the ministry also limits the time of year and places in which hunting is permitted. Shark hunting has been banned between January and April and must be done more than five miles away from the coast, three miles from islands and one mile away from coral reefs.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Supporters of unseen India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, wave as he arrives to file his election nomination papers in Varanasi. Sanjay Kanojia / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world April 24

The National View's photo editors pick the best of the day from around the world

 Sarah Geronimo. Courtesy: FLASH Entertainment

Sarah Geronimo brings her star power to Abu Dhabi this weekend

Ahead of her Abu Dhabi concert on Thursday night, we take a look at the Filipina singer Sarah Geronimo’s extraordinary career.

 Visitors look at the medieval inventor Al Jazari’s water-powered Elephant Clock. The clock is on show at the 1001 Inventions exhibition at Sharjah Expo Centre. Photos Antonie Robertson / The National

1001 Inventions: in praise of Islam’s gifts to the world

Down the centuries, from camera obscura to designing a sail that allowed early seafarers to tack into the wind, Muslim scientists have made many significant contributions to science. Rym Ghazal and Asmaa Al Hameli visit an exhibition in Sharjah that celebrates those contributions

 Mumbai Indians fans cheer they team on the opening match between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2014 at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Earn cash back with the IPL cricket in the UAE

Dunia finance promotion allows cricket lovers to earn up to 6 per cent unlimited cash back on any spending they make on a day when an IPL match is played in the UAE.

 Iranian workers at the Iran Khodro auto plant in Tehran on March 18. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

Iran’s love of cars survives devastating sanctions

Sanctions and energy subsidy reductions might have hurt the Iranian automotive industry. But car makers at one factory are still optimistic, Yeganeh Salehi reports from Tehran

 This comparison image shown on Reddit annotated the objects with vehicles from the movies.

Disney confirms that Star Wars: Episode 7 is filming in Abu Dhabi desert

Disney yesterday confirmed that the filming of Star Wars: Episode 7 is taking place in the desert in Abu Dhabi.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National