Mar 31 2013
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Shark trading restrictions a huge boost for scuba diving in UAE and Oman
A recent decision to restrict the trade of several shark species will bring huge benefits to the scuba diving industry in both the UAE and Oman, according to a leading diving school owner.
Christophe Chellapermal, owner of Nomad Ocean Adventures in Dibba, says new permits required in both countries to export fins of oceanic whitetip sharks and three species of hammerheads will lead to a revival in local shark numbers within just 12 months.
The new restrictions in the Gulf follow a landmark agreement made this month by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
"Seeing a shark is one of the biggest thrills you could have as a scuba diver," Mr Chellapermal said.
The 33-year-old runs Nomad Ocean Adventures diving school, which is just across the UAE border into Oman.
He has witnessed a dramatic fall in sightings of whitetips and hammerheads in Omani waters since diving as a 12-year-old and founding Nomad in 2004.
The creatures are fished to meet Chinese demand for their fins and for an oil extracted from their liver, which is used locally as a sealant on wooden dhows. A hammerhead shark is typically sold locally for Dh3,000-Dh6,000.
"When I was a kid we used to often see oceanic whitetips when we were diving, and even from the beaches in Dubai. But nowadays it's almost mission impossible," he added.
"This month I saw a fin of a three metre shark and another underwater at 20m - it was the first time I'd seen sharks since December."
Of greatest concern is that many sharks caught locally are babies. Sharks are slow to mature and have few offspring, making them vulnerable to overfishing.
Mr Chellapermal predicts that the CITES move and possible creation of fishing-free areas in local waters would lead to a noticeable revival in shark numbers within 12 months and a return to naturally-occurring population numbers within 5 years.
With the international diving community already viewing Oman and the UAE as safer alternatives to diving holidays in Egypt, the added attraction of guaranteed shark viewing could provide an added boom for the local dive industry.
"Egypt has always been the biggest dive destination in the region, but the instability there is causing people to look for new opportunities," said Mr Chellapermal.
"Divers in Europe are looking for destinations closer to them than South East Asia that can provide amazing diving. Five years ago, all my guests were from the UAE. Now I'm getting a lot of groups - sometimes up to 35 people - from Europe."
For more information on of Nomad Ocean Adventures visit www.discovernomad.com
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