Emirati fisherman defends slaying of three huge bull sharks

Eid Suleiman said the apex predators were caught and sold legally

An Emirati fisherman has defended the killing of three huge bull sharks and said they were caught and sold legally.

Eid Suleiman, 51, reeled in the first shark weighing about 350kg on a fishing trip about 75km off the coast of Fujairah on Saturday.

He then killed and hauled aboard two bull sharks weighing 327kg and 280kg on Sunday.

The boat owner was investigated last year for killing a pregnant 350kg shark during a ban but was later let off for expressing "remorse for his actions", officials said at the time.

It's hard to avoid the shark in that area as there are plenty of them eating our catch

The fish was caught within the February 1 to June 30 ban on bull shark hunting last year.

The hunting ban period has since been decreased by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to March 1 to June 30.

Mr Suleiman told The National the three-metre-long shark ate his catch and was hooked while fishing.

“I was fishing for kofer and argyrops spinifer when the shark caught the bait and refused to let go,” he said.

“It’s hard to avoid the shark in that area as there are plenty of them eating our catch. I called on the workers to come and help me pull it out of the water."

Two other boats and 10 crew helped him pull the shark out of the water in a process that took more than two hours.

“We lured it close to the boat and then pulled it out of the water using a big hook attached to a strong rope,” said Mr Suleiman.

“It was a huge shark and the buyers at the fishmarket offered me Dh4,000 but I sold it to a private buyer who offered more."

On Sunday, he brought two more bull sharks to the port which he said were caught the same way.

Local residents gathered by the dockside to pose for photos with the huge fish and the images quickly spread on social media. The hunting ban this year does not come in until March 1.

Eid Suleiman claims he did not deliberately hunt for sharks but killed them when they attacked his catch. Courtesy: Eid Suleiman

“They were also caught unintentionally, but it happened and I managed to make a good amount after selling them,” he said.

Bull sharks are among the most aggressive species and are diadromous, meaning they can swim in salt and fresh water with ease. They have been linked to attacks in fresh water rivers where humans swim.

But they are classed as 'near threatened' and marine experts fear such killings go unchallenged too often.

They are relatively common off the UAE coast at this time of year.

Sharks are a key indicator of ocean health. They play a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem by helping to remove weak and sick fish as well as keeping the balance between marine competitors and ensuring species diversity.

Numerous studies have shown that a depletion of shark numbers has led to the loss of commercially important fish and shellfish species further down the food chain.

In 2018, The National reported that sharks were still being caught and traded offshore despite the seasonal ban.

Fishermen claimed they were being caught accidentally but still being sold for high prices.

The UAE has 153 chondrichthyans, a class of cartilaginous fish that includes sharks, rays, skates, sawfish and chimaeras. Of these, 78 species are considered threatened in the Arabian Sea region.

The UAE Shark Assessment Report, released by the ministry in June 2018, states three species have not been recorded in the region for at least three decades and are possibly extinct here. Of the remainder, nearly one in 10 are classified as critically endangered, one in five are endangered and one in five are vulnerable.