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Fishermen say they were attacked by huge shark but experts say it was hunted

FUJAIRAH // Mystery surrounds how a three-metre-long shark ended up dead on a boat, with the sailor saying it leapt aboard and attacked his crew and experts saying it looks like the shark had been hunted illegally.

Emirati sailor Hamza Al Sharaa said he and his crew of five were attacked by the shark that leapt onto the deck of their boat in the dark in the early hours of Sunday.

Mr Al Sharaa, 37, said the shark seemed hungry and willing to do anything to eat.

“It was 2am and we were 28 miles away from the shore,” he said. “One of our crew members was fixing the fishing rope on the boat when the shark jumped out of the water from his back trying to eat him and, in seconds, it was in the middle of the boat after it hit one of the [sides of the] boat,” he said, adding that the shark leapt three metres out of the water to get onto the boat.

However, David Robinson, assistant aquarium operations manager at The Aquarium in Burj Al Arab, said that the shark was a shortfin mako shark that only feeds on fish.

“This fish looked like it has been fished, as there was a hook in its mouth and the reason that it jumped on the boat was not to attack people but because it was stressed and pulled out of the depth,” he said.

“The mako shark is a fish eater and wouldn’t jump out of the water and attack people, unless it has been hooked and pulled out the water.

“Sharks are under a lot of threat and they are slowly disappearing by illegal shark fishing.”

Khalifa Massoud, deputy head of Fujairah Fishermen Association, said that the hook was placed on the shark after it had already died “to keep the dead shark still on the boat”.

“It’s a huge fish and no hook could drag it out of the water – the fishermen didn’t attempt to hunt or catch any sharks,” he said.

Mr Al Sharaa, a sailor of 10 years, said: “First, we sprayed it with fresh water and then we hit it on the nose [with a wooden stick] to kill it.

“We were all in a state of shock. This is the first time we have witnessed such an incident.”

He added that none of the crew were injured but the boat has had to be sent for maintenance.

Saeed Al Matlaai, an Emirati sailor of another boat, said that he saw a similar shark seven miles from the shore about three months ago.

“We were sailing and a big shark was beside our boat and was pushing us. The shark approached when he heard a sound or felt a movement, so we kept silent until he left,” said Mr Al Matlaai, 37.

Mr Massoud added that it was not the first time sharks have jumped onto boats.

“We had two incidents last year with smaller sizes but this one is huge,” he said.

“Our ancestors used to talk about this kind of shark and they called it Al Deebah – a fish with wolf characteristics – it’s deceiving and can easily sense any movements.

“It is fierce and can jump up to four metres out of the water to hunt. We urge all the fishermen to be extra cautious and if any sailor sees the shark nearby, they should leave the place immediately and inform the association.”

Rima Jabado, a marine scientist who has researched many sharks in the UAE in the past four years, agreed with Mr Robinson that it was a mako, dispelling early assessments that it could have been a great white shark. She said it is often found on the east coast and the largest size ever recorded for the species was four metres.

“It’s very unlikely that this shark jumped out of the water to attack a person,” she said.

“We have mako sharks in the region; it’s common in the UAE and Oman, especially on the east coast, but it hasn’t been recorded in the Arabian Gulf.

“The fishermen call it Al Deebah and it doesn’t attack people unless its threatened.”

Mr Massoud said the association would keep and mummify the shark and then display it in the Fujairah Maritime Museum.

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(via The National)