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A giant hammerhead shark pregnant with a litter of 45 pups has been found at Deira Fish Market, it has been reported.
Filmmakers recording the decline of sharks in the region stumbled on the five-metre long shark, raising concerns about the Arabian Gulf’s marine ecosystem.
“We need to raise the flag that this is an important region for sharks. This area is a pupping ground but when a slow-reproducing shark is found at the market with 45 pups something needs to be done for the welfare of the species,” said Jonathan Ali Khan, project leader, producer and director of Sharkquest Arabia Musandam Expedition was quoted as saying in Gulf News.
“If even half of these shark pups had survived, it might have made a significant contribution to the survival of this species at least in this region,” he added.
The shark landed in Khasab, Oman, and brought to the UAE to be sold for a higher profit, Khan said.
In 2008, the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water issued a decree banning shark finning, and halting shark-hunting from January to the end of April.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UAE is one of the main Middle East exporters of shark fins to Hong Kong, exporting around 400-500 tonnes per year between 1998 and 2000 and attracting fishermen from the region to trade in shark products.
Shark researcher Thomas Vignaud, working with the Shark Quest project, found the large pregnant female great amongst dozens of other large sharks.
Interested in collecting samples for genetic research as part of his PhD, Vignaud reached inside to reveal 45 dead, unborn babies almost ready to be born.
“Great hammerheads are of critical importance in this region and they have pretty much disappeared from everywhere else. We need to regulate fishing more as 80 per cent of sharks have disappeared,” said Khan, a diver and filmmaker in the UAE for more than 25 years. “We know hammerheads used to aggregate in the Strait of Hormuz but we never see that any more.”
Sharks are unusually sensitive to fishing because their populations grow so slowly, a consequence of reaching sexual maturity late and producing few young ones. The latest figures from 2003 show that the shark catch went up to 3,060 tonnes a year in the UAE.