Tens of thousands of dead sardines that washed ashore in Ras Al Khaimah last week were likely a result of over-zealous fishing, rather than pollution or rising sea temperatures.
Investigations are under way into the stranding that left dead fish scattered across a 1.6km stretch of Al Rams beach.
Residents of the area discovered the fish and filmed the phenomenon before posting the video on social media. This was picked up by media and widely shared online. It was then that the stranding caught the attention of the RAK Environment Protection and Development Authority.
“We received the video on Monday. Specialised teams were sent to the site to check for any signs of pollution and took samples of the fish and the water,” said Dr Saif Al Ghais, executive director of the authority.
“Initial investigations indicate that the fish were left on the beach by fishermen who caught huge amounts of fish that exceeded their loading capacity,” he said.
It is believed that the fishermen used large Al Daghwa (nylon) nets, that they cast from shore but, when the catch overwhelmed their nets, the fish spilled over and were left ashore. The sardines were found in an area commonly frequented by these fishermen.
Humaid Al Zaabi, deputy manager of RAK Fishermen Association, said such an incident was extremely rare and that all fishermen are familiar with the rules and regulations that forbid such practices.
“It is sardine season and the sea is flooded with them. It might happen accidently with Al Dhagwa fishermen that their net might catch more than they expected and they could not be prepared to move all the catch at the same time,” said Mr Al Zaabi.
He said that usually, in such a case, fishermen would return to the area and collect the fish from the beach.
“By chance the person who took the video was there before they finish moving their catch,” he suggested.
Mr Al Zaabi said the stranded fish were not harmful to beachgoers.
“Sardines are used as fertilisers. Birds also can feed on them and other fish too so it’s not that harmful.”
“But if it was left there intentionally then the person who did it should be warned.”
Investigations are ongoing.