The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MOCCAE, has announced that shark fishing is banned during the period from 1st February until 30th June, which coincides with the shark breeding season. The ban is pursuant to the Ministerial Decree No. 500 of 2014 on Regulating the Fishing and Trading of Sharks.
Salah Abdallah Al Rayssi, Director of the Fisheries Sustainability Department at MOCCAE, said that the ban aims at reducing risks facing rare species of sharks. He said that sharks play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy habitat by ‘cleaning-up’ the reefs and preying on weak and sick fish populations, keeping coral reefs free of disease.
"UAE waters are home for as many as 30 shark species, which are classified as endangered or critically endangered. Illegal fishing practices, global spread of unethical and uncontrolled fishing methods, as well as the rise of the shark fin trade, are putting some shark species on the edge of extinction. Global efforts must be intensified to prevent that from happening," he said.
Ministerial Decree No. 500 of 2014 limits the hunting of sharks in fishing waters not less than five nautical miles from the shores of the UAE and not less than three nautical miles from the islands of the UAE. This will prevent fishing of sharks for their fins and thwart the practice of throwing them back into the sea. The regulation stated that sharks must be brought whole into the port. It also aims to prevent the trading of live sharks caught in the UAE waters unless a special permit has been issued by the ministry.
It prevents the fishing of species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, which also stated that these species must be carefully released back into the sea when caught accidentally.
The Decree allows fishermen who are operating boats with long lines and multiple hooks to catch sharks from the 1st July each year until the end of the following January, as long as they do not exceed 100 hooks per line. The hooks should be curved and biodegradable.
The import of sharks - fresh, frozen, dried, salted, smoked or canned, or in any other form – is also allowed by the Decree. The shipments must be accompanied with the original certificate of source of origin related for each shipment, stating the scientific name and quantity of each type. It should also have the original health certificate, commercial invoice, and the packing list for each shipment.
In cases of the import of shark species enumerated in CITES, namely: Sawfish (Pristidae spp), whale shark (Rhincodon typus), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharinus longimanus), porbeagle (lamna nasus), basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), and manta rays (Manta spp.), an export or re-export certificate from the administrative authority in the exporting country and a valid import certificate issued by the MOCCAE must be secured. Companies are not permitted to export sharks caught in the waters of the UAE - whether fresh, frozen, dried or salted, smoked or canned, or any other form, - throughout the year.
In case of re-export of shark species in the annexes of the CITES, additional documents such as the re-export certificate issued by the MOCCAE for these shark species need to be submitted, in addition to prior authorisation of the importing country for re-export of same shark species to prevent the re-export of shark fins from the state.