Sharks, rays, chimaeras assessed in Middle East for Red List priority

While sharks and rays were given better protections at CITES last fall, advocates are still seeking. PHOTO © Avi Klapfer Is a red-listing in the future for more sharks, rays, and chimaeras?

Massive construction, desalination, and reclamation projects over recent decades have significantly altered shoreline habitats for aquatic creatures throughout our region.

Following long-held concerns by the UAE government and global environmentalists about these impacts on sea-life, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), in collaboration with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, convened a Red Listing Assessment informational workshop a couple of weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.

The IUCN Red Listing Assessment is the world’s most comprehensive source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods.    

The workshop was sponsored by the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Sharks MoU under the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS).

The workshop was held to bring together experts who both contributed and gathered research regarding the status of sharks, stingrays, and chimaeras indigenous to the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters. 

Twenty-two participants from several countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman, India and Pakistan, as well as experts from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia contributed their observations, expertise, and analysis.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species states that a quarter of the world’s population of sharks, stingrays, and chimaeras are presently threatened with an elevated risk of extinction, compared to that of other many other species, primarily due to exploitation of their environment and their accidental capture from aggressive fishing practices. The document noted that these issues impact stingrays more than sharks.

This workshop was the first of many steps outlined in the Red List that will help researchers and government authorities understand and thereby improve the health and populations of these and approximately 160 other aquatic species indigenous to the Arabian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.

The workshop was sponsored by the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Sharks MoU under the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS).

IUCN SSG Co-Chair and Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University in BC, Dr. Nick Dulvy added that “sharks and rays are facing an elevated risk of extinction worldwide, and we are concerned about the long-term survival of these species. Most species tend to grow slowly and produce few young, leaving them particularly vulnerable to overfishing.”

“The sharks and rays assessment workshop is important for continuous monitoring of the shark and rays conservation status in the region, we hope to continue organizing such workshops in the future to obtain accurate information about the changes in the conservation status of sharks and rays in the Arabian seas. Without monitoring the status of the species, we may lose some of them in silence,” says IFAW Middle East Regional Director Dr. Elsayed Mohamed.

Following this workshop, a broad regional report will be produced that features status assessments identifying species most at risk as well as recommendations for conservation actions. This comprehensive level of analysis will be a first for the UAE and the broader region.

This report will contribute to another study being undertaken jointly by the UAE National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks and EAD and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

Initially, their assessment will form a baseline of urgent steps to be taken immediately to protect sharks, stingrays, and chimaeras.


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