DUBAI // The UAE will be required to license its trade in the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark for the first time following the introduction of a new measure designed to protect the species.
Scalloped hammerheads are regularly caught in Omani waters and brought to Deira Fish Market, where the fins sell for high prices. The fins are exported to China where they are used to make a soup that is regarded as a highly prized delicacy. Those of hammerhead sharks are particularly valued.
Until now the trade has gone unregulated, even though the species is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
However, the scalloped hammerhead was included in appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) last month.
News of its inclusion caused a stir among delegates at the Shark Conservation in Arabia Workshop in Dubai yesterday, as the development had gone largely unnoticed.
It means the UAE and Oman will have to establish licensing systems for the international trade in scalloped hammerheads. Oman and other countries in the region that export scalloped hammerhead fins to the UAE will have to prove that the sharks were legally caught.
The requirements are binding on all Cites member countries, and the UAE has been a member since 1990.
"This could be a game-changer here in UAE and the region," said Nick Dulvy, co-chair of the IUCN's shark specialist group, who took part in the workshop. "Many hammerheads at the fish market in Dubai come from Oman. The scalloped hammerhead fins re-exported from the UAE come from other countries in the region.
"The implication of this is that all exporting countries need to provide a certificate of origin and a statement that the species was caught legally. Any re-exporting country must also have certification."
The species was included in Appendix III on September 25, and all countries involved in the trade have 90 days from that date to introduce the required arrangements. "This measure, once implemented, will go a long way to getting vital statistics on the trade in scalloped hammerheads," added Mr Dulvy.
In a separate move, a proposal to include the scalloped hammerhead and two other hammerhead species in Appendix II of Cites will be considered next March. If the proposal is successful, the sharks will receive even greater protection.
The shark conservation workshop was organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Water and Sharkquest Arabia.