ABU DHABI // Environmental experts will assess fish stocks in UAE waters for the first time in more than a decade.
The Bahith II research vessel, with a crew of 13 scientists from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (Ead) and New Zealand, will carry out the fish resources assessment survey over the next year.
The Kuwaiti ship, which left Mina Zayed on Thursday, will be a base for the study of key stocks of bottom-dwelling fish such as hammour, shaari and farsh.
The survey will allow for more precise estimates of stocks in the UAE since the last counts in 2002 and 2003, said state news agency Wam.
“Dwindling fish stocks are a global issue, with two-thirds of the world’s stocks either being fished at their limit or overfished,” said Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, yesterday at the ceremony to launch the programme.
Earlier surveys showed that UAE waters were overfished.
“The state of our fishery demands our attention and our collaboration to rebuild stocks, and to ensure the survival of this important component of the emirate’s natural heritage, preserving the traditional profession and legacy of our forefathers,” he said.
Nine projects were planned by the ministry and Ead to help the UAE fisheries recover.
“We have got to the point where firm and collaborative action across the Emirates is required to give our severely overexploited fisheries resources a chance of recovery,” said Razan Al Mubarak, secretary-general of the agency.
“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 Abu Dhabi waters over the past 15 years, many of the country’s most important species have seen a declined. Hammour, shaari, farsh and kanaad were being exploited at up to five times the sustainable limit, Wam said.
Other studies showed that 13 species that accounted for about 80 per cent of the commercial catch had been harvested beyond sustainable levels.
The survey will cover waters over an area of more than 46,000 square kilometres. The second phase of the programme will start in September and run until December.
It will also involve the collection of fish species as part of the first reference collection for fish and marine species in the Arabian Gulf region.