x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UAE shark researcher awarded Dh30,000

The UAE recipient, Rima Jabado's Gulf Elasmo Project in Dubai, will use the money to collect data from sites where sharks are landed, investigating the intensity of the shark-fishing effort.

ABU DHABI // A researcher has been awarded a Dh30,000 grant to assess the impact of fishing on the shark population.

The project is one of nine environmental schemes in the region that yesterday shared $100,000 (Dh370,000) from the car manufacturer Ford.

The research - from Jordan, Lebanon, Oman and a first from Iraq - includes efforts to promote energy efficiency, waste recycling and conservation.

The UAE recipient, Rima Jabado's Gulf Elasmo Project in Dubai, will use the money to collect data from sites where sharks are landed, investigating the intensity of the shark-fishing effort.

Ms Jabado also collects data from experimental fishing trips, catching sharks, recording their size and type and then releasing them back into the sea.

The funding is greatly needed. While Ms Jabado has previously received support from the Emirates Natural History Group, there are few local sources of funding.

The UAE's wealth can hamper appeals for international grants, she said. "A lot of time, you need to be from a country that is listed as not developed."

Ms Jabado plans to use the money to do more intensive long-lining, a commercial fishing technique that uses a main line and many baits running at intervals along it. The results should be published early next year. She wants to draw up a definitive list of the shark species in UAE waters, as well as provide a baseline for shark populations here - data that is currently lacking.

"In the past, I had to rely on people to provide me with boats for the trips, but with this money I can rent boats, buy bait and do some tagging."

She also hopes to find two fish large enough to support two satellite tags she has had since May.

The tags can provide information about the movements of species such as hammerheads, which are known to be migratory.

Dr Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, the grants juror, said the research would help decision-makers to better manage the UAE's often over-fished shark populations.

"Protecting sharks will continue to maintain balance in the marine ecosystem," said Dr Al Abdessalaam, executive director of marine and terrestrial biodiversity at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.

Overfishing can have unexpected consequences. Overfishing of black-tip sharks in the North Atlantic during the last decades of the 20th century caused an increase in populations of cownose rays, which had dire consequences for the local shellfish industry.

To avoid this, said Dr Al Abdessalaam, UAE authorities should reduce fishing efforts, regulate gear and protect areas where sharks mate and nurse their young.

Since 2000, Ford's conservation and environmental grants scheme has awarded $1.3m to more than 150 projects in the region.

It is open to candidates from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the UAE.

vtodorova@thenational.ae