When I first came across this scene in a small fishing village on northern Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, it was surreal because there was no one around — just a lifeless great hammerhead shark on a quiet sidewalk. Ten minutes later, a fisherman casually walked past, swinging his catch in one hand. The juxtaposition of a fisherman and the dead hammerhead visually communicates a complicated narrative.
For many Omanis in remote coastal villages, fishing for sharks is the only source of income. Each day at dawn, fishermen head out into the Strait of Hormuz, searching for sharks. Large hammerheads are rare in the Arabian seas, but they are still caught regularly in these waters. Hammerheads are among the most valuable of sharks; one can fetch as much as $1,300. When I took this photo a few years ago, the region had recently become the largest importer of shark fins. The concrete slab is the village’s auction block. Some nights, as many as 1,000 shark carcasses are auctioned off and packed into freezer trucks. The final destination is three hours away in Dubai, where the carcasses are sold again, destined for the global epicenter of the shark-fin trade: Hong Kong.
Arabia’s shark populations are in precipitous decline, and several shark-conservation measures have been introduced in the region. Can Arabia transform its reputation from being a top supplier of shark fins to a leader in global shark conservation? I’d like to think so.