Hammerhead sharks and cowtail rays: eight endangered species found in UAE waters

A look at some of the threatened species of sharks, rays and sawfish that roam the UAE's waters

GD70NR Whitetip reef shark, Triaenodon obesus, full body view, swimming over coral reef, Maldives, Indian Ocean
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The Arabian Seas region is home to 153 species of sharks, rays, skates, sawfish and chimaera. Just over half are considered threatened. A four-year federal action plan has been announced to help bring them back and protect the fragile ecosystems of our waters.

Whitetip reef sharks are found in coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific. A slow swimmer, they like to hunt at night for crustaceans, octopus, lobsters and crabs. Whitetip reef sharks are social animals who are often found in large groups. This curious species likes to approach swimmers but are relatively harmless.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates --- June 8, 2010 --- A shark whale has been spotted in the Al Bateen Marina where some believe is a result of the resent storm.  ( Delores Johnson / The National )

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean. These graceful, slow moving sharks live up to 70 years, grow to more than 12 metres long and weigh up to 20.6 tonnes, the equivalent to more than eight Range Rovers. They prefer warm waters and their favourite food is plankton.

A picture taken on December 3, 2015, shows blacktip reef sharks in the lagoon of the island of Bora Bora.

Overexploitation threatens the survival of the shark. The renewal of its population is very slow. The human sample would have led to a decrease of 80 percent of the species over the last decade, 90 percent since the fifties.  / AFP PHOTO / Gregory Boissy

Blacktip reef sharks are considered one of the most beautiful shark species, easily recognised by the black tips on their fins. Blacktip reef sharks have a strong social hierarchy and are considered timid around other predators. Nonetheless, they are  active hunters that eat small fish, like sardines and herrings, as well as groupers, rays, and smaller sharks.


Read more:

UAE biodiversity action plan to save sharks from extinction unveiled

Fishermen still catching sharks, despite breeding season ban


MWDYDP December 26, 2010 - Indo-Pacific Ocean, Maldives - Giant Guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) swims over sandy bottom in the night Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/ZUMA Wire/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News

Bowmouth guitarfish are a rare ray species found in tropical coastal waters in the Indo-Pacific. These strong swimmers like muddy or sandy seafloors where they hunt for bony fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Its fins and meat are highly prized and it is now classified as Vulnerable.

A critically endangered small tooth sawfish roams its new home at Oceanworld in Sydney on August 18, 2011. Measuring over 1.5 metres in length, sawfish have adapted to live in both salt and fresh water, while their long saw-like rostrum (nose) has evolved to expertly forage for food under the sandy ocean floor.  AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD / AFP PHOTO / TORSTEN BLACKWOOD

Green sawfish were once the ban of pearl divers in the Gulf, who feared the fish with saw-shaped snouts more than sharks. They were so hunted that to be extinct from UAE waters until fishermen began posting photos of them on Instagram. They have been fully protected in the UAE since 2008.

G9X3WB cowtail stingray, Red Sea, Aqaba,  Jordan, Minor Asia (Pastinachus sephen) / Feathertail Stingray, Banana-tail Ray, Cowtail Ray, Fantail Ray, Guergunna, Weralli

Cowtail rays are lone hunters that can grow up to 1.8 metres long. Like other stingrays, they like shallow coastal waters of warm seas and are usually inactive, burying themselves in the sand and moving with the motion of the tide. They are widely hunted for their leather.

A lemon shark swims off the coast of Moorea, the sister island to Tahiti, French Polynesia.    AFP PHOTO VALERIE MACON / AFP PHOTO / VALERIE MACON

Sicklefin lemon sharks are stocky, powerful and highly social sharks. They have a social hierarchy based on age and sex that is respected on group hunts. These bottom dwellers churn up the sea floor to catch bony fish, rays and crustaceans. They are considered gentle and non-aggressive towards humans.

A hammerhead shark swims close to Wolf Island at Galapagos Marine Reserve August 19, 2013. Picture taken August 19, 2013.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva (ECUADOR - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY ANIMALS TRAVEL) - GM1E99316A201

Hammerhead sharks are a group of sharks known for the unusual shape of their heads. Their wide-set eyes allow them scan quickly for their favourite food, the stingray and pin it to the sea floor with their mallet-shaped head. Hammerheads hunt alone and can weigh more than 450 kilograms.