Last year Green Prophet traveled to the United Arab Emirates to talk to locals about fish. After seeing reports of sharks being caught and sold openly, and watching The End of the Line, we leaped at an opportunity to make presentations at schools and public venues about unsustainable fishing practices. But our audience was sometimes less excited.
Locals frequently sited tradition and jobs as justification for eating hamour, for example, one of the most overfished species in the world, and law enforcement was virtually non-existent. But new tallies that reveal historically low fish stocks have compelled the Dubai Municipality to step up efforts to curb sales of undersized fish and restore balance to the Gulf’s ecosystem.
Live Aquatic Wealth
The “Development and Sustainability of Live Aquatic Wealth” campaign launched last week will involve educating fishermen, stores, hotels, and others involved in the industry about the importance of leaving immature fish in the sea so that they will have a chance to reproduce.
Young king fish, hamour, gish and pomfret are among the 14 most vulnerable fish species in the Gulf that will be carefully monitored. Anyone who sells a fish that is smaller than 17 to 42 cm, depending on the species, faces an initial fine of $270. After the third infraction, their operation will be shut down.
Mohammed Al Marri, the chairman of the Dubai Fishermen’s Cooperative Association, told The National that this move will put great pressure on people who rely on fishing for sustenance.
What about the fishermen?
“To stop it means taking away livelihoods”, he told the paper. “To put rules, we must sit with different departments and discuss it. It is not an easy solution but it can be slowly stopped,” he added.
Darren Hilz, the project manager of sustainable fisheries at the Emirates Wildlife Society in Dubai, voiced particular concern about juvenile fish, but concedes that this is an excellent step for Dubai that could have a ripple effect in other Emirates.
“We will be there to see who is catching small fish,” Khalid Sharif, director of the food control department at Dubai Municipality told The National, adding “They will be fined and the fish will be confiscated.”
Fish is a valuable natural resource that has been carelessly managed over the last few decades. Rapid development, overfishing, and pollution have all contributed to a breakdown of the Gulf’s ecosystem – something that environmentalists have been warning against for years.
It will take some time before we understand how effective this new campaign will be, but the initiative is a giant step in the right direction.
:: The National
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