The trade thrives in the Gulf, as it does worldwide, shark conservationists said, mainly because there aren't enough people out there like Jabado. The fast-talking Jabado, who favors a white bandanna, black T-shirt and trousers when she is in the field, is the only person in the UAE assessing shark numbers.
Governments in the region have until now largely ignored sharks in favor of more commercial fish species like grouper.
They have almost no data on the numbers and species of sharks that can be found from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman, often lack the laws that would curb the trade and don't have the money or the political will to enforce the laws they do have on the books, such as bans on shark fishing.
"In an ideal world what we would have is every population of every shark monitored so we know how many adults there are," said Nick Dulvy, a Canadian researcher who is the co-chair of IUCN's Shark Specialist Group that is tasked with determining which species are endangered.
The challenges were laid bare at a shark conservation workshop in the UAE this month. Governments from across the Gulf sent representatives and all offered testimony of just why their country wasn't doing more to protect sharks.
Kuwait talked of protecting two shark species but admitted enforcement of its ban on shark fishing was weak and that government inspectors and fishermen couldn't even identify them. Saudi Arabia claimed it banned the export of fins in 2008 but had no answers as to why its fins continue to turn up in Hong Kong markets. Oman sent a government team with no experience with sharks while Bahrain and the UAE admitted they lacked sufficient data to determine whether sharks were overfished in their waters.
"Our hands are tied because of insufficient data," Mohammed Tabish, a fisheries specialist with the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, told the conference. "It's all collected in general form and includes no species specific data which makes it difficult to take the necessary actions for particular species."
Yemen and Somalia, whose sharks routinely turn up in Dubai's market, are typical of countries with bigger problems. Both have thriving shark fisheries — Yemen ranks sixth in exporters to Hong Kong and is one of the few countries that consume sharks domestically.
Yemen has no laws protecting sharks while Somalia lacks the means to enforce the laws it has on the books due to a lack of funds, its long-running civil war and fledging government.
"If you go to the Somalia coast at night, you will see thousands of ships fishing illegally, mostly for sharks and lobster," Ahmed Shaikh Mahmoud Osman, wildlife director for Somalia's Ministry of Fisheries and Environment, said of the boats which come primarily from Asian countries. "We need fishing boats to safeguard the coast. We also need renewal of formal laws to stop criminals and greedy business people who come to our coast and smuggle our resources."
Dulvey, Fordham and Jabado encouraged the region's governments to start collecting data and using it to draw up management plans which can include quotas and outright bans on endangered shark species.
Until now, no governments in the Gulf have quotas on shark fishing nor have any national shark conservation plans. The UAE, Bahrain and Qatar do, however, give protection to sawfish — a shark-like ray species that is the most threatened marine species in the world.
Fordham also said Oman and Yemen could join the UAE in requiring that sharks are landed with their fins attached — rather than processed at sea — which helps with enforcement and makes it easier to collect scientific data.