National Geographic : 2012 Mar
the plunder of the sea itself? Jabado travels the length of the U.A.E. coast, from Abu Dhabi to Ras al Khaimah, tallying sharks and interview- ing shermen. Everywhere it is the same story: Catches are down, and shing intensity is up. One of the questions Jabado asks the shermen is whether they think sharks should be protect- ed. Some say, No, why should we protect them? Sharks are a gift from God. He will replenish them. Others say that sharks should be protected but that it needs to happen across the region. If we protect them here, do you think the Iranians are going to stop taking them? they tell her. Why should I stop shing for sharks and miss out on revenue if some other person keeps taking them? Eight countries border the gulf. " ey have the same kind of culture and heritage, mostly speak the same language, face the same prob- lems, and share the same resources," Jabado says. "Why aren't they working together?" Her concerns run deeper than sheries man- agement. e impact of an environmental disas- ter in so shallow and enclosed a waterway is appalling to contemplate. ere are many hun- dreds of oil and gas platforms in the gulf, and tens of thousands of tanker movements annually through a narrow stretch of the Strait of Hormuz between the Musandam Peninsula and Iran. "What if there was a Deepwater Horizon event here?" she asks. " e average depth of the gulf is about 30 meters. One big spill could wipe out whole marine ecosystems." that the uni ed approach Jabado seeks may be starting to take shape. Several countries are considering following the lead of the United Arab Emirates in giving legal protection to a single species of shark: the whale shark, the biggest sh in the sea. e giant l- ter feeders have been turning up in unexpected places. In 2009 David Robinson, a Dubai-based whale shark researcher, was startled when a Google image search turned up a photograph of whale sharks swimming among the platforms of Al Shaheen, a major oil and gas eld o the coast of Qatar. " e photograph was on the Facebook page of a worker on a gas rig," Robinson said. "I sent him a message, he added me as a friend, and now we're getting a stream of pictures from him and others. In one photograph I counted 150 animals. I'd like to say we discovered the sharks through tirelessly scouring the oceans, but that would be a lie. It was through scouring the oceans of cyberspace! Science by Facebook---a bit embarrassing, really." e discovery of whale sharks at Al Shaheen has led to other nds. Seasonal mass spawning of lobsters has been observed, with the lobsters rising to the surface at night and turning the sea into a vast crustacean soup. With shing banned and boat tra c restricted in many oil and gas elds, these areas likely serve as de facto marine A pharaoh cuttlefish releases a plume of ink as it is stabbed by a diver at the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, not far from Oman's capital of Muscat. Net fishing on these protected coral reefs is prohibited, but other methods are allowed, including the traditional use of long-handled hooks to catch cuttlefish.