Marine conservation organisation Sea Shepherd Global is to start operations in the Middle East to improve the health of the Arabian Gulf.
The wildlife conservation group hopes to turn the tide on ocean debris and the decimation of shark populations among its priorities.
Sea Shepherd is celebrating 40 years of ocean protection this year, and has registered as a not-for-profit organisation with the Community Development Authority, Dubai.
“We have begun aligning with stakeholders focused on similar missions to us and have a joint marine debris clean-up in the pipeline for mid-November,” said Natalie Banks, managing director of Sea Shepherd UAE.
“We are also holding joint school talks on marine conservation, as well as providing information and education at events including the upcoming Dubai Creek Pre-Owned Boat Show [November 9 to 11].
“With the UAE believed to be the fifth largest exporter of shark fins in the world, we also aim to increase the awareness of the importance of sharks in keeping oceans healthy.”
Conservationists at the group are known for direct action campaigns to protect ocean wildlife from slaughter such as the dolphins of Taiji in Japan and pilot whales of the Faroe Islands.
It has also campaigned to protect sharks targeted for finning in Central America and the Galápagos Islands, and beyond.
The Sea Shepherd fight to protect whales against Japanese hunting expeditions in the Antarctic was the subject of the Animal Planet reality-TV series, Whale Wars.
Ms Banks, a shark conservationist and advisor to Sea Shepherd Australia, said the new UAE chapter was looking forward to working with authorities towards healthier oceans.
"We had to provide a two-year event plan in order to receive our permit to operate and, of course, we are required to follow all requirements to obtain additional permits where necessary,” she said.
“We are fortunate to celebrate our own launch in the year that Sea Shepherd globally is celebrating 40 years of operation and we look forward to working with the UAE Government and stakeholders to defend, conserve and protect local marine life and the marine environment in the UAE.
“We have an amazing team with an enormous amount of passion for marine conservation and expertise in shark and dolphin conservation, as well as measures to reduce, reuse and recycle items which largely end up as marine debris in our oceans.”
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was founded by environmentalist Paul Watson, formerly of Greenpeace, in 1977.
To mark the first chapter in the Middle East, Sea Shepherd UAE is holding a celebratory event at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club on December 1, at which Captain Watson will deliver a special message and veteran crew members Trevor Van der Gulik and Asian Sea Shepherd director, Gary Stokes, will appear as guest speakers.
For more information email Sea Shepherd UAE at email@example.com or register for tickets at www.eventbrite.com.au/e/sea-shepherd-40th-anniversary-uae-tickets-38900271760?ref=eios&aff=eios
For more on Sea Shepherd go to www.seashepherdglobal.org