Nine Arab countries sign accord for migratory sharks

 ©IFAW/A.Skene -- From left to right: Peter Pueschel, IFAW’s Director of the International Environmental Agreements, H.E. Sultan Alwan, Assistant Undersecretary for Water Resources and Nature Conservation from Ministry of Environment and Water and Andrea Pauly, Associate Programme Officer at CMS Secretariat

When IFAW brought 13 Arab country officials together for a “Prevention of Sharks and other Marine Species Trafficking” training, nine of them signed an important global accord for the protection of sharks worldwide. The “Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks” (MoU Sharks) now boasts a total to 36 signatories.

Since this MoU is the only global accord specifically designed for this purpose, I am hopeful that this great Arab initiative marks a turn of the tide for many threatened marine species.

The Dubai-based workshop, co-hosted by IFAW and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Environment & Water, and the MoU are very important at a time when sharks are struggling against overexploitation, habitat deterioration and climate change. The workshop specifically is building the necessary enforcement capacity to follow up international commitments with action. 

An ecological keystone species, sharks are top-predators of special importance in the marine environment, playing an important management role in the ecosystem. If they were to disappear, the whole system may change and deteriorate to the point of no return.

Just about one year ago, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) increased protection levels to five shark and two ray species. These decisions, not possible without the support of countries in the Arab region, marked a historical breakthrough in international conservation policy to set the course towards real ecological sustainability.

While CITES is an important authority to ensure that international trade has no detrimental impact on shark populations, their listings are not enough to re-establish and maintain a favorable conservation status for all migratory sharks, nor to ensure the termination of cruel fishing practices. The Shark MoU instigates coordinated, range-wide action for these migratory species.

I am very excited to see UAE, Comoros, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan, Syria and Yemen show global leadership by signing on to this agreement at our training here in Dubai, and we are hopeful that others will follow.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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