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Local ecological knowledge of fisheries charts decline of sharks in data-poor regions

Cite this dataset

Almojil, Dareen (2021). Local ecological knowledge of fisheries charts decline of sharks in data-poor regions [Dataset]. Dryad.


Scientific knowledge is lacking on marine species of economic and conservation importance, hindering their sustainable management. Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) has the potential to provide valuable insights on large (spatial and temporal) scales, by drawing on the collective experiences of those who work closely with the taxa of interest. This study explored the status of shark population over time in four countries across eastern and southern Arabia (i.e. Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen). Results indicate strong declines, with highly experienced fishermen reporting greater perceived declines (80%) in the abundance of sharks (in general), with mean year of perceived decline starting in the late 1990s to early 2000s. For three specific taxa investigated, hammerhead sharks (e.g. Sphyrna mokarran) had the greatest mean perceived decline (80%), while even the group with the least decline (small carcharhinids) had mean perceived declines of 50%. Management measures are urgently required in the region to ensure sustainability of historic shark fisheries that provide food security and coastal livelihoods (e.g. Yemen and Oman), and to prevent regional extinctions (e.g. hammerhead sharks). Older and more experienced fishermen who are both; witness to the greatest declines and may have local standing and influence could be valuable resources in developing more community-based sustainable fisheries, especially given the apparent lack of success of formal management measures.


2.1 Study area

The Arabian Peninsula lies in the north-western Indian Ocean. Study sites were located in four countries on the eastern and southern shores of the peninsula (Figure 1). These sites were: 1) the State of Kuwait, 2) Kingdom of Bahrain (both in the Gulf), 3) the Sultanate of Oman (coasts on the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea), and 4) the Republic of Yemen (Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden).


2.2 Sampling design and data collection:

Our sampling approach was categorized based on Fishers’ experience (i.e. number of years a fishermen has been fishing), and country. Fishers’ experience was categorized as highly experienced (>40 years of fishing experience ), experienced (20-40 years of fishing experience) or less experienced (<20 years of fishing experience).

For each country, sampling sites, were selected based on recommendations from local fishermen and governmental officials on local shark landing sites. In Yemen, sampling was restricted to three sites within the Governorate of Hadhramaut due to security issues and escalating war conflict.

Official governmental permits from each of the study countries and ethical approval (School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Cambridge) were obtained before data collection.  Data collection through interviews were conducted from March – June 2013 in Arabic, the native language of all interviewees. A pilot study of ten fishermen in Al- mukalla and Qusair (Yemen) was used to strengthen and improve the content of the interview used in the main study. Interviewed Fishers for the pilot study were not interviewed again during the final sampling.

A pilot group interview was also performed on the first arrival at each country. These pilot interviews were performed to learn about the local names of shark species at each country, and any specific information related to the shark fishery (Figure S2). The group discussions were initiated by approaching old, respected and skilled fishermen and asked them to identify photographs of sharks, as well as to point out individual shark species from landing sites. The average number of participants in these group discussions ranged from six to twelve fishermen. None of these fishermen were interviewed for the main survey.

Fishers were randomly approached at landing sites, informed of the aims of the research, and then asked for their availability and permission for an interview. The interview itself was only recorded if the interviewee gave consent. Only one fisher per fishing vessel was interviewed to avoid pseudo-replication. Subsequent fishers at the same site were then interviewed through snowball sampling, where the next fisher was indicated by peers (Biernacki and Waldorf 1981). Fishers were interviewed independently to avoid influences on their reports from others.

The questionnaire used (Appendix A) was semi-structured with a combination of 40 structured and open-ended questions (Cohen and Crabtree 2006). It was designed to record basic information on fishers (age, level of experience, main gear types) as well as to understand their perception of any change in the abundance of shark populations. The interviews also used aiding materials (i.e. maps, a measuring tape and pictures of different shark species) to assist fishermen in their responses.

Usage notes

This file is the raw format of the data, if you needed any further information please contact me and I would be happy to explain how to use the data file.


Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences