More than half of shark and ray species threatened

Some sharks are caught by accident (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 September 2017
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More than half of shark and ray species threatened

DUBAI: More than half of all species of sharks, rays, and sawfish are in some way threatened in the Arabian Gulf a new report has revealed, largely because of over fishing and habitat destruction.
Particularly at risk is the smoothtooth blacktip shark is on the brink of extinction according to the report published by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), UAE daily The National has reported.
The smoothtooth blacktip shark is one of three species of the chondrichthyan family (which include sharks and rays) that has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
According to the regional “Red List” report, the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters are “home to some of the most threatened chondrichthyan populations in the world,” The National added.
Of the 153 species recorded in the Arabian Gulf 78 are considered threatened to some extent – that is nearly 51 percent, the report adds.
The other two chondrichthyan recorded as being on the brink of extinction are the stripenose guitarfish, which live near the seabed and is vulnerable to modern trawler fleets, and the red sea torpedo, another ray.
It is thought the latter species is possibly extinct.
The report revealed that there was only 19 of the 153 species whose numbers were deemed healthy, but there was insufficient data to draw any conclusive decisions on approximately 30 other species.
“We are all concerned about the long-term survival of many species of sharks and rays in our region and these results provide an important baseline for monitoring their status,” said Dr. Rima Jabado, Fisheries Scientist at EAD.
“Relevant stakeholders across the region need to work closely together to ensure immediate actions are taken to halt and reverse these declines.”
The report revealed that while some species were specifically targeted by fishermen, others were simply caught up in the nets accidently – which is known as “by-catching.”
Other threats faced by these species include coastal development projects that damage their natural habitats, including mangroves and coral reefs.
The report covered the Red Sea coasts of Egypt, Saudi and Somalia, as well as India and Pakistan. The research also included all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The report concludes that there needs to be more joined-up approach to conservation, with more coordination in policy making in the area.


A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Updated 20 July 2018
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A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: Now that women in the Navy can wear ponytails, men want beards.
The Navy said last week that servicewomen could sport ponytails, lock hairstyles, or ropelike strands, and wider hair buns, reversing a policy that long forbade females from letting their hair down.
Servicemen immediately chimed in on social media, asking the Navy if they could grow beards. A sailor’s Facebook post with a #WeWantBeards hashtag was shared thousands of times.
Beards were banned in 1984. The Navy wanted professional-looking sailors who could wear firefighting masks and breathing apparatuses without interference.
The Navy says that’s still the case. Still, some hope the change in female grooming standards opens the door.
Travis Rader, a 29-year-old naval physical security officer, said allowing beards would boost morale for men, just like allowing ponytails and locks has for women. There are two things that would make many Navy men happy: beards and better boots, he added.
Rader had a 6-inch-long beard when he joined the Navy after high school.
“You take something away from somebody, and they want it more,” said Rader, a master-at-arms assigned to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The Navy announced it was adding grooming options for women during a Facebook Live event. Many black women had asked the Navy to be more inclusive of different hair textures. The Navy had the standards in place because of safety concerns and to ensure everyone maintained a uniform, professional look.
Rader was one of several sailors who wrote in the comments section of the Facebook Live event to press for beards. Bill Williams, a 20-year-old naval information systems technician, commented too, asking why sailors can’t have beards if bearded civilian firefighters wear masks.
Williams said he thinks a nice, well-groomed beard looks very professional.
“It’d be great because I know that when I shave for multiple days in a row, it starts to really hurt,” said Williams, who works at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Hampton Roads in Virginia.
Sailors can get permission to grow a beard for religious reasons or if they have a skin condition that’s irritated by shaving. Mustaches are allowed as long as they are trimmed and neat.
“Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards or eccentricities are not permitted,” the policy states. The Navy isn’t currently considering changing that.
Safety continues to be the primary concern, said Lt. J.G. Stuart Phillips, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. He referenced a 2016 study by the Naval Safety Center, which concluded that facial hair affects the proper fit and performance of respirators.