A dead dugong was found floating in the Gulf waters near the artificial island development Palm Jebel Ali in Dubai on 2 May, 2011. Listed as vulnerable on the International Union of Conservation’s (IUCN) list of endangered species, it is unknown what killed the juvenile male sea cow, though piles of construction materials and half-built towers hint at the dangers marine life face along Dubai’s glittering shoreline. More than twenty concerned people attended Global Ocean’s screening of The End of the Line, a documentary about overfishing held at the Pavilion Dive Center a day after the dugong was discovered, pointing to a potential changing tide of environmental awareness in the Emirate.
Hosted by Ernst Van Der Poll from Tawasul, an inspiring organization that engages young people and students in grass roots conservation and restoration ecology, the event was attended by a variety of concerned children, educators and parents.
According to the Emirates Wildllife Society (EWS-WWF), the United Arab Emirates’ “habitat for wildlife has been lost due to urbanization and industrial development (oil and gas), over fishing and over grazing. The fast urbanization is [also] bringing problems of waste management.”
While Ecoventure covers dunes and wadis, Tawasul has been providing children hands-on experience of the vibrant marine life that is threatened by rampant development along the Gulf since 2002.
Vanderpoll says that 1,000 students have already gone through Tawasul’s grassroots educational program and that some of them have approached local hotels and restaurants to encourage them to stop serving endangered fish species.
A species of grouper, Hamour is prized among Emirati families. It is also one of eight commercial fish that have been fished to death.
EWS-WWF reports that “the fact that we see Hamour everywhere in large quantities gives us the false impression that our seas are full of them. This is far from the truth. Despite being in decline, the Hamour population is still being fished out at over 7 times the sustainable level.”
During the post-screening Q&A, one woman in the audience claimed that she would no longer eat at Nobu, one of the restaurants noted in the documentary for its infamous insistence to keep Bluefin Tuna, one of the most endangered species on the planet, on its decadent menu.
One young girl told Rashid Sumaila, Director of the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Center, that she intends to combat over fishing by screening the documentary throughout the summer.
Conspicuously absent were local Emiratis, who have been harder to reach during Global Ocean’s four day screening marathon, epitomizing the divide between expatriates and locals.
But pictures on their website demonstrate that Tawasul has created a positive platform to introduce both foreign and local children raised amidst towers such as the enigmatic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab to the diminishing but no less extraordinary wonders of nature.
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