Monday, March 28, 2016

"Unreal" books

SHARJAH - Children in the UAE are set to enter a fun new age of reading with the launch of the world's first virtual reality book. The service will be available in both Arabic and English, by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) as part of its campaign to promote the eighth edition of the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival (SCRF), which will take place from April 20-30, 2016 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

SBA chose the title ‘Baba Zayed’ - a publication from Kalimat publishing house – as the first book to be used by virtual reality technology. The book enables children to learn a brief biography about the founder of the Union, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is renowned as being not just a political leader, but a forward-thinking visionary. The book was specifically selected by SBA to enhance the national identity among children in the UAE.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, said; "At Sharjah Book Authority we strive to make the best use of technology to enhance culture and knowledge, especially in its application to children’s literature. With the launch of the digital publication Baba Zayed, we are seeking to utilize the latest development in expanding knowledge. This technology has been available in world markets for some time, but its uses up until now have been limited to digital games and films. This book will be the first of its kind in the world that uses the 3D VR Glasses to enable children to read and at the same time enjoy 360-degree interaction with the story."

The launch of the virtual reality Baba Zayed, which encourages children to engage with its events and be influenced by its characters directly, aims to attract children and encourage them to read by taking advantage of their passion for technology and its latest developments. The new offering is in line with SBA's literary initiatives that involve a range of inspiring and innovative ideas to increase children's interaction with books and instill a love of reading, as well as help facilitate SCRF 2016 as an interactive platform that combines learning, fun and activity.

SBA began its promotional campaign for the virtual reality book at KidZania in Dubai Mall through interactive platforms that included VR headsets that downloaded the electronic interactive version of Baba Zayed in Arabic and English.

Al Ameri added; "The use of digital virtual technology in books is one of the creative ideas that exemplifies the vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, for the importance of nurturing children’s minds with knowledge and intellect. We want children to discover the pleasure of reading and aspire to make use of all means that help achieve this target. In doing so, we hope to contribute to creating an educated generation capable of building itself and serving the nation."

Al Ameri noted that the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan succeeded in achieving a qualitative leap in the history of the UAE. "Inspired by his great personality, we decided to start our new project by converting a set of books into virtual reality technology, starting with the Baba Zayed title. This is because we believe in the need for children to learn about Sheikh Zayed, his inspiring traits, his visionary qualities and his passion for knowledge and reading. Through the new virtual reality book, we aim to strengthen national identity among children in the UAE," he added.

The 11-day SCRF will bring together a significant number of top Arab and international children's authors who will participate in a series of sessions to discuss the best ways to help stimulate young people to read. Publishers participating in the festival will be displaying an array of new titles for the children's market.

Sustainable is the word

Abu Dhabi: Graced by the presence of Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council, the United Arab Emirates Sustainable Fisheries Programme was launched on Thursday by Dr. Thani Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, the Secretary General of Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). This programme, launched in recognition of the currently severely overexploited state of fisheries resources in the UAE, aims to ensure the UAE’s fishery is utilized sustainably, and will be implemented starting 2016 through to 2018.

The launch was also attended by Eng. Mariam Hareb, MOCCAE’s Assistant Undersecretary, and Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, Staff Pilot Major General Abdullah Khuwaidem Al Neyadi, Director of the UAE's Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA), Abdulla Ali Musleh Al Ahbabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC), in addition to officials and experts from the Ministry and EAD.

During the ceremony a memorandum of understanding between the MOCCAE and EAD was signed to enhance cooperation between the two parties to achieve sustainable fisheries through the implementation of the "UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme".

The programme was officially launched with the departure from Mina Zayed Port of the Kuwaiti research vessel, Bahith ll, which over the next year, with a crew of scientists from the MOCCAE, EAD and New Zealand, will carry out a Fish Resources Assessment Survey (FRAS) in the waters of the UAE. The vessel, Bahith ll is a multi-function research vessel with a steel hull, suitable for conducting fisheries surveys (stern trawl), oceanographic surveys, and marine environmental surveys.

The survey will assess the status of key demersal species as (bottom dwelling) fish stocks in UAE waters, such as Hamour, Shaari and Farsh, has been rigorously designed with a high level of replication which will allow for more precise estimates of fish stock sizes in the UAE since the last survey.

Dr. Thani Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), stated: "Dwindling fish stocks are a global issue, with two-thirds of the world's fish stocks either being fished at their limit or over-fished. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that 70% of the world’s fish population is fully exploited, overexploited or in crisis."

"In UAE, scientific surveys and studies revealed that the UAE’s fish stocks were being fished above their sustainable optimum levels, and it is very important to implement the UAE sustainable fisheries programme, which comes in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and the plans of the Ministry and the other concerned authorities to develop the fishing sector" Dr. Al-Zeyoudi added.

He also noted "The current state of our fishery demands our attention and our current and future collaboration to re-build fish stocks and to ensure the survival of this important component of the Emirate’s natural heritage preserve the traditional profession and legacy of our forefathers. Thus, in 2016 with EAD, we have developed a comprehensive nine project approach to assist with the fisheries recovery."

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, the Secretary General of EAD, commented: "We have got to the point where firm and collaborative action across the Emirates is required in order to give our severely overexploited fisheries resources a chance of recovery. In 2015, we engaged with fisheries stakeholders across the UAE who corroborated what our science is telling us – that we have a severely overexploited commercial fishery".

"In 2016, following on from a thorough fisheries sector review that we have completed, we will be engaging with our partners and stakeholders with an aim to develop a fisheries management approach that allows our exploited marine resources to recover" she added.
Al Mubarak said "In 2016, we are also looking forward to engaging with our commercial, recreational and spearfishing communities, and working together to ensure that fisheries resources are here for future generations. The time to have this important fisheries conversation has come. Everybody has a role to play."

She noted that "A long term and consistent fisheries management is essential because the nature of the fish stock in the water of UAE, like Hamour, Shaari and Kanaad, requires according to our studies a range of 15-20 year period to move from a severely overexploited status to a fishery that has recovered and can be used sustainably."

Commenting on the Fish Resources Assessment Survey, Al Mubarak said: "The last comprehensive fisheries resources assessment survey in UAE waters was undertaken during 2002/03. Therefore, this survey will help us to improve and update estimates of stock status indices for major demersal species in the UAE and improve our understanding of the refuge function of protected areas and no-take zones. It will also help us update biological parameters of selected species, size and age structures of key fish populations, upgrade technical skills for national fisheries research personnel, understand the main environmental factors affecting the abundance and distribution of fish stocks and develop an information base to allow for the development of a management plan for the fisheries of the UAE which includes the definition of management targets and biological reference points."

"The more we know about the status of our fish stocks, the better we can work to address key issues, with the ultimate goal of allowing the fishery to recover, so it may be used sustainably in the future" Al Mubarak added.

Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports said: "We are happy to host this event at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, whose eco-friendly features represent our commitment towards the environmental conservation – one of our core objectives. As we have spearheaded many initiatives to protect the marine ecosystems, including Ras Ghanada Reef – the Gulf’s largest coral reef; this is a new opportunity for us. Our community and leisure ports can play a major role in this programme and we will extend our continued support," he said.

The new fisheries programme, coordinated by the UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme Technical Committee, comprises of nine concurrent key fisheries projects which include the FRAS, which will form the new baseline against which the recovery will be measured.

In the UAE, our fisheries are an important component of the cultural heritage of coastal communities. They offer a source of employment and recreation as well as contributing to the food security of the Emirate. Unfortunately, the UAE’s commercially-important fish stocks are severely overexploited by international definition.

EAD has conducted detailed studies of fish stocks for the past 15 years in Abu Dhabi waters, which account for the majority of the marine area of the UAE. Many key species have seen a significant decline over this time with key demersal (bottom dwelling) indicator species Hamour (Orange-spotted Grouper), Shaari (Spangled Emperor) and Farsh (Painted Sweetlips), and pelagic (open water) species the Kanaad (Spanish Mackerel), being overexploited at up to five times the sustainable limit.

Our studies show that at least 13 species have been harvested beyond sustainable levels. This data is representative of the UAE given Abu Dhabi’s majority proportion of the UAE’s Arabian Gulf marine area and studies indicating that many fishers from other Emirates fish in Abu Dhabi’s waters.

The 13 overexploited species account for approximately 80% of the current commercial catch and 88% of the commercial fishery revenue. In addition to the iconic species such as the Hamour, Shaari, Farsh and Kanaad, other overexploited species include the Dhil’e (Talang Queenfish), Zuraidi (Golden Trevally), Shaari Eshkheli (Pink Ear Emperor) Yemah (Snub nosed Emperor), Qabit (Gold-lined Seabream), Safi Arabi (White-spotted Spinefoot), Kofar (King Soldier Bream), Esnenuh (Yellow fin Hind) and Marjaan (Mangrove Red Snapper).

EAD has been monitoring fish stocks against two key sustainability indicators – one is the adult stock size of the Hamour, Shaari and Farsh, when compared to their virgin biomass; and the second is the ‘Sustainable Catch Index’ which describes the proportion of catches that consist of species that are sustainably exploited.

The results are alarming - on average the adult stock size of the three key demersal species is only approximately 7% of the virgin unexploited population size. For the Hamour, the level is only approximately 6% (2014). An adult (reproductive) stock size of 30% is the sustainable threshold below which these stocks are considered to be overexploited. The second indicator, the Sustainable Catch Index, describes the proportion of the total landed catch that consists of sustainably exploited species and was only 13% in 2014. Of the 13 species that are currently over-exploited, eleven are caught with the gargoor (fish traps targeting demersal species) and two are caught with the ghazel (encircling net targeting pelagic species).

Our UAE-wide socioeconomic survey confirmed what the fisheries science is telling us – that most fishers agreed that there have been significant declines in the state of the fish stock over the past 30 years. Over 80% of the most experienced fishers in each emirate agreed that the fishery was severely overexploited.

More about Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey The survey, which is being implemented in coordination with the MOCCAE, is a fundamental pillar of fisheries management and a strategic priority for the MOCCAE and EAD, assisting in fulfilling requirements of the UAE’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and Abu Dhabi’s Biodiversity Strategy. In addition to conducting an assessment of the abundance and status of demersal fisheries resources for the UAE, the FRAS will identify key spawning grounds of major commercially exploited demersal fish species, identify the geographic range and stock delineations of fish resources occurring in the Arabian Gulf and determine the refuge strength of no-take areas.

It will involve two seasonal surveys, one during the key spawning season for most of the commercially species, and one during the cooler winter months, with methods including trawling, acoustics and trapping, the same methods used in the 2002/03 surveys.

Bahith ll, manned by a 13-member team of specialists including its crew, sailed off from Mina Zayed Port to start the trawl survey. The second phase of the survey will start in September and will continue until the beginning of December. A total survey area of 46,898 km2 will be covered.

The key species to be covered in this survey include Hamour (Epinephelus coioides), Shaari (Lethrinus nebulosus), Farsh (Diagramma pictum), Zuraidi (Gnathanodon speciosus), Jesh Um Al Hala (Carangoides bajad), Shaari Eshkheli (Lethrinus lentjan), Badah (Gerres longirostris), Yemah (Lethrinus borbonicus), Qabit (Rhabdosargus sarba), Yanam (Plectorhinchus sordidus), Faskar (Acanthopagrus bifasciatus), Kofar (Argyrops spinifer), Gurfah (Rastrelliger kanagurta), Kabaab (Thunnus tonggol), Kanaad (Scomberomorus commerson), Sadah (Auxis thazard), Jedd (Sphyraena sp.), Barriya (Stylophorus indicus).

The FRAS also creates a unique opportunity to collect specimens of various fish and marine species across UAE waters. Currently, there is no comprehensive reference collection of Arabian Gulf fish specimens across the region. The team’s goal is to use the marine voucher specimens collected and build the first Arabian reference collection of fishes and marine biodiversity.

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Forward thinking

ABU DHABI --- While oil-exporting countries face significant challenges as result of global economic turbulences and falling oil prices, the UAE continues to achieve new levels of economic growth.

This comes as a direct result of the UAE wise leadership’s forward-looking vision and its precise predictions of the region’s developments-which contribute in facing growing global economic challenges, through developing and putting in place prudent financial policies and sound economic methodology that promotes sustainable economic growth.

This economic growth did not come as a surprise to experts and analysts. The economic diversification policies adopted by the UAE in the early eighties, laid down by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and guided by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, play an essential role in strengthening income sources and building a national, knowledge-based economy founded on a spirit of creativity and innovation with deep knowledge on global economic challenges.

The International Monetary Fund praised the vision of the UAE wise leadership and the fiscal policies adopted by the Ministry of Finance.

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, stressed the country’s relentless pursuit of development and prosperity for its people and residents. "The diversified financial and economic policies put in place displayed the country’s high ability to cope with the oil exports challenges, debt issue coverage on an external and local level at good cost, as a result of adopting proactive steps in market liberalization and deregulation, thereby opening up the banking sector to domestic and foreign financial institutions. In fact, this raised the efficiency of the financial system and rates of domestic reserves, and has contributed to the growth of capital markets and the continuous investment for major infrastructure projects."

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid said, "The UAE continues to gradually restructure its financial system through enhancing financial reserves and developing policies to maintain financial and monetary stability and push sustainable economic growth, as well as policy reforms in removing oil dependency and laying foundations in implementing VAT. The UAE has an important status as active player in economic diversification. Despite being the sixth largest oil exporter, the revenues of this sector amounts to 30 percent of the total financial resources of the country; where the economic and financial indicators confirm unprecedented growth in other sectors".

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid added, "The decline in oil prices is part of the global economic cycle. The oil-producing countries faced similar cases in the mid-eighties, which the UAE overcame thanks to its lead in setting the right methodology, managing resources and controlling costs. This phase is a continuous part of the economic cycle which I trust the country will overcome due to its proper planning, spending restraints frameworks, financial adaptation and creating sustainable government revenues by depending on alternative oil resources".

The UAE’s leading sustainable journey received great interest and appreciation on different regional and international levels.

During her visit to the UAE in February, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), highlighted the wise fiscal policies adopted by the country; that enhanced its competitiveness and made bank assets, owned by the local banking sectors, the largest of its kind in the region making the UAE the second largest economy in the region and 17th globally according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) indicators.

Christine Lagarde highlighted the leading role of the UAE’s wise leadership in managing the process of growth and development. The goal is for the UAE to become one the most competitive economies in the world by 2021 with the implementation of diverse economic policies and by encouraging the growth of the industrial and non-oil sectors as alternatives to oil. The efforts exerted by different governments resulted in the UAE’s non-oil exports exceeding the aggregate of other GCC countries.

"Our discussions with the Ministry of Finance and UAE government entities touched on a profound awareness to economic challenges and the continuous pursuit to adopt and implement gradual fiscal consolidation through raising non-oil revenues, phasing out other energy subsidies, implementing the tax system next year and providing foreign investment data to strengthen financial stability, and improve statistics and transparency, notably the collection and publication of data on the International Investment Position, and to implement further structural reforms to foster productivity and competitiveness in international forums," Christine Lagarde was quoted by a press release from the Ministry of Finance as saying.
Dr. Hazem Al Beblawi, Member of the Executive Board of the IMF, praised the comprehensive development methodology adopted by UAE in local economic diversification to be one of the top countries in the region.

Al Beblawi said, "The decrease in oil revenues paved the way to implement VAT on a regional level, and UAE had qualitative steps in this field. Aside from implementing economic diversification policies, decreasing oil dependency and strengthening and supporting innovative projects, the Ministry announced the beginning of VAT implementation in the coming years; to be, as witnessed, a pioneer in implementing and adopting fiscal and monetary reforms in the regional and international level".

Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs, said, "The decline in oil prices is considered a great opportunity to restructure the economy and stimulate more economic diversification factors, encourage production and industrial sectors to enhance its contribution in the GDP of the UAE. MoF is implementing a long-term strategy with clear objectives to develop a suitable environment for expanding the productive base and industrial sector, enhancing reliance on non-oil sectors, boosting investment in infrastructure and supporting foreign trade. This will in turn support economic integration and the growth of the UAE’s economy".

Younis Haji Al Khoori, Undersecretary of MoF, said, "The Ministry established a solid platform that is based on specific standards and policies in the management of government financial work, which enabled it to study macroeconomics and develop effective financial forecasting to improve quality standards and fiscal policies. The Ministry has a task of providing and managing financial resources for the Federal budget without deficits. The Ministry also continues to support innovative projects in different fields and to implement best international standards in managing government financial resources; in order to achieve local economic stability and sustainability".

Khalid Ali Al Bustani, Assistant Undersecretary for International Financial Relations at MoF, said, "The Ministry seeks to strengthen the UAE’s international network with different countries and regional and international financial entities with whom we share goals and visions for discussing best ways to diversify income resources and develop innovative solutions to face challenges in the next phase; in order to control expenditures, increase revenues and develop financial and tax reformation programs and systems aimed to enhance international financial stability and achieve sustainable economic development".

A specialized IMF delegation conducts annual visits to the UAE within the framework of article IV discussions. These visits aim to evaluate financial, monetary and economic sectors. A report is issued with essential economic developments and statistical reports on an annual basis. The Fund’s report, issued in October 2015, highlighted UAE ability to achieve growth twice more than the economic growth in the Euro-zone at this time. It also underlined that the UAE is steadily moving towards the path of growth and prosperity, leaning on fiscal and monetary stability elements led by MoF, as well as its commitment to enhance the country’s position in the region and the world.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pupils debate, UN style

DUBAI // Better education and cultural awareness will be fundamental to empowering women and helping to ease the refugee crisis, delegates at a pupil version of a United Nations conference heard.

About 1,000 pupils from across the globe are taking part in the eighth Dubai International Academy Model United Nations, which started on Wednesday.

The Emirates Hill School’s three-day event provides pupils – or delegates as they will be known for the three days – hands-on experience in undertaking diplomacy and international relations.

The delegates are honing skills such as researching, public speaking and debating, critical thinking and leadership as they investigate the issues of women’s empowerment and the refugee crisis.

Speaking before the conference officially opened on Wednesday, Sara Atassi, 16, from Syria, a Dubai International Academy pupil and executive president of the model UN special committee in Arabic, said: “There are cultural and historical issues, particularly in Mena that in the past have made it difficult for women to reach their full potential but we need to do more. It’s often said that if you educate a woman, you are educating a whole generation and educated women lead to better educated children."

Women around the world faced “glass ceilings", she said, that prevented their progress and were, generally, in less well-paid jobs than men. “We would like to see equality in things like rights, pay and job opportunities ... and that have to start with education," Sara said.
The pupils agreed that women should at least have the option open to them to enter the workforce or not.

“At the moment, many, many women don’t have that option, but the more active a role they can play in public life, that will change," said Neha Rathi, 17, from India, who is the executive president of the model UN human rights committee and also a Dubai International Academy pupil.

Equality – or the perception of refugees as being equals, people who had jobs, lives, homes that were cherished – would go a long way to easing the tensions created by the refugee crisis, delegates found.

“There is a big misconception that refugees are poor," said DIA pupil Suhail Mayor, 17, from India, who is the president of the model UN general assembly.

“They have been dehumanized as a result of this. But in reality, they have lost their homes and are simply looking for safety."

Suhail recommended a campaign of information and education to help decrease the fear that the massive influx of refugees created in many European countries.

“The impression following the Paris terror attacks was that the people coming in were all terrorists, but that is simply not the case," Suhail said.

“The refugees and the people in the European countries should be given awareness of each other’s cultures, similar to what we have in the UAE, where people coming here are given information on the culture and the customs of the country.

“Maybe we can do that for refugees going to places like Germany so they know the rules, and vice versa, so Germans know a bit about the culture of the refugees."

He also suggested a demilitarized zone could be built where refugees could be cared for and helped until their home countries were safe to return to.

Port operator posts hefty growth

 ABU DHABI - Ministry of Interior and the Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters have signed AED 391,122,304 worth of contracts on the second day of the International Conference for Security and National Resilience (ISNR Abu Dhabi 2016).

The announcement was made by Major General Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, Inspector General of the Ministry of Interior and Deputy Chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee of ISNR Abu Dhabi 2016.

Major General Al Raisi noted that the contracts were signed upon the directives of Lt. General HH Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to acquire the best technological security devices, equipment and vehicles, and to seek qualified personnel and training services to promote the skills of the MoI staff members according to the best international standards.

Major General Al Raisi said that the MoI, represented by the General Directorate of the Federal Criminal Police, signed 5 contracts to purchase handling, detection and specialized security vehicles, for a total value of AED 26,106,574. The most prominent contracts are as follows: a 12,428,147 AED worth contract with Al Hamra Trading Est.; a 9,487,110 AED worth contract with Eye ON Technology; a 1,846,489 AED worth contract with International Golden Group; a 1,742,828 AED worth contract with GulfNet Security Systems Company LLC; and a 602,000 AED worth contract with Qartaja Trading Est.

Major General Al Raisi added that the MoI also signed 4 supply contracts for a total value of 231,697,342 AED, notably a contract to supply, install and operate tools, equipment, software, training, and maintenance of e-Ports projects with Electronic Identity Management and Security Solution (EIMASS) worth 187,800,342 AED; two contracts with Atlas Communication worth 43,897,000 to supply, install, and operate the main station, base stations of Tetra System, with the training; and to supply, install, and operate visual communications network (LTE) and supply wireless devices. The MoI also signed a contract with Bin Salmeen Computers and Office Supplies, worth 6,494,455 AED to supply, install, and operate CCTV cameras on the digital network system.

According to Major General Al Raisi, the Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters announced the signing of 11 contracts, for a total value of 127,318,388 AED. The contracts are as follows: four contracts with Electronic Identity Management and Security Solution (EIMASS); one to separate the MoI’s and Emirates Identity Authority (EIAD) fingerprint databases; two contracts for the iris recognition devices maintenance and technical support for central and supporting locations; one contract to implement a new system to connect all operating systems in the country’s different ports, for a total value of 44,683,694 AED. The Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters signed three contracts with Emirates Solutions for Integrated Security (ESIS), to design, and supply three GIS mobile labs, and provide technical support and software for the operations rooms’ systems (IDS, STORM), as well as providing consultancy services in the field of security GIS systems worth 36,272,159 AED; and two contracts with Atlas Communications to renovate the wireless network (Tetra) worth 19,158,948 AED; and a contract with Emirates Photo Marketing, Abu Dhabi Branch, to supply the ink for the driving licenses and registrations for the Federal Traffic and Licensing system, worth 5,074,460 AED.

The press conference was attended by Brigadier Saeed Saif Al Nuaimi, Deputy Director of Finance and Services at the Abu Dhabi Police; Brigadier Jassem Al Mansouri, from the office of Inspector General of the Ministry of Interior; and Colonel Abdulla Al Masood Al Issaei, from Abu Dhabi Police.

Mideast airline won't transport endangered wildlife

ABU DHABI - Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the signatories to the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products signed at Buckingham Palace yesterday.

Led by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, the United for Wildlife initiative aims to support efforts to prevent the growing trade in illegal wildlife and products around the world. The taskforce for transportation has identified the specific role that the transport industry can play in helping to support the efforts of what The Duke of Cambridge refers to as ‘the race against extinction’.

The ambitious declaration documents eleven commitments which require signatories to commit to supporting global efforts to prevent illegal wildlife smuggling, through putting in place real measures where the transport industry specifically can help shut down routes exploited by traffickers.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, who signed the declaration on behalf of the airline, said: "We recognize the significant role that the airlines can play in preventing the smuggling of wildlife and products. Whilst the airlines cannot act as regulators, we are able to support enforcement authorities and assist in raising passenger awareness. We encourage others in this sector to sign up to this declaration to help prevent this abhorrent practice."

The declaration focuses on breaking the link between the demand for illegal wildlife products around the world and the escalating poaching crisis in places such as Africa. Airlines are seen as key partners, able to increase passenger awareness, provide capacity building at airports and work closely to support the efforts of customs and law enforcement authorities.

To address the commitments the airline will be working closely with IATA, the global airline association and another signatory to the Declaration, on shared initiatives.

Etihad Airways is also engaged with animal welfare on a broader scale, as part of its efforts to reduce its ‘Animal Footprint’.

The airline works in partnership with the international wildlife NGO, the Born Free Foundation to ensure the airline’s holiday activities and the transportation of animals have a minimal impact on animal welfare and conservation. It is developing policies and programmes to reduce this risk.