Recent news article related to blog below featuring the letter by Shark Guardian Director Brendon Sing to the government of Bahrain
Article below by Jenny Elliot-Bennett:
In 2018 I was working in Bahrain as a private tutor. I noticed that the fish counters in supermarkets were selling various species of sharks. I recognised some of them as being on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. I took pictures and estimated dimensions, and set about identifying every shark I saw being sold in every supermarket. I contacted many shark experts globally, to assist in the identification. I told the supermarket managers that some of the species they were selling were endangered, but they just shrugged.
I spent some time gathering data on the numbers and species of sharks being caught in Bahraini waters, and sold in Bahraini shops and at the fish market. I spent time at the landing docks, speaking to many nationalities of fishermen as best I could, using internet translations and posters of sharks for them to point at. One fisherman told me he had caught a juvenile great white. One fish seller told me that he could get me any shark I wanted, it did not matter what species it was. I also documented the landing of pregnant and juvenile females of many species. I put together a report and then went to the Supreme Council for the Environment of Bahrain (SCE) to tell them what I had discovered. I insisted on speaking to the CEO.
The SCE sent an official to go with me, so I could show him what was being sold at the fish markets and in the supermarkets. He also asked the fishermen some questions. The language barrier is significant in this region; there are many nationality of fishermen speaking many languages and none of them are fluent in Arabic or English. It’s difficult to communicate with them, especially if they do not want to understand what is being said ie: explanations of fishing laws and the ecological disaster that is landing pregnant and juvenile sharks. They operate with impunity, because no-one is there to monitor them properly.
I proposed to the Supreme Council that Bahrain should have a shark protection law. The CEO agreed. I researched the best practices for fishing without putting sharks at risk, and researched the shark laws held by other countries. I put together a shark protection law, and sent it to my good friend Dr Teale Phelps Bondaroff of Oceans Asia, who diligently applied his own invaluable expertise to the document. Then the full shark protection law was submitted to the SCE. The SCE agreed with the law and sent it to the fisheries department. The fisheries department, obviously focused on immediate commercial profits and not long term sustainability nor the immeasurable importance of global shark conservation, rejected the law on a number of points. The law was argued back and forth but was eventually provisionally accepted with some amendments.
Since then I have been requesting information on how the law is progressing into practice. It became clear that the application and enforcement of the law was stymieing it’s full adoption.
Recently an article appeared in the Gulf Daily News newspaper, reporting on complaints that local marine-loving divers had made about an endangered zebra shark having been killed by fishermen and put on sale at a market. This article prompted Parliament’s Public Utilities and Environment Affairs committee chairman Mr Mohammed Buhamood to call for an investigation. I am hopeful that now, with interest declared publicly by a minister, that the fisheries will have to concede. The article has also prompted the SCE to officially write to the fishery department about shark protection.
I welcome Mr Buhamood’s interest in sharks and their protection and I hope he will assist me in pushing this shark protection law through the process and get it enforced so that the endangered species that swim in Bahraini waters can do so safely. I urge Bahrain to lead the way in shark protection, and be an example of environmental conservation in the Gulf region.
I am grateful to Shark Guardian for their official support in trying to push this matter to conclusion.
In the published article above, Brendon Sing, Director of Shark Guardian wrote:
To The Supreme Council of the Environment of Bahrain,
We applaud your open-minded acceptance of Jenny Elliott-Bennett’s shark
protection law for Bahraini waters. It is excellent that you are prepared to lead
the way in shark protection in the Gulf region, by following the shark protection
law that Jenny Elliott-Bennett has written especially for the water of Bahrain, to
protect the Bahraini marine environment.
We commend your determination to now implement and enforce this shark
protection law, and we look forward to seeing your progress in this extremely