Almost two tonnes of illegally caught fish was seized during a surprise inspection at a market in Dubai.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment showed up unannounced at Waterfront Market in Deira, last Tuesday, to check if fishermen and fish mongers were complying with environmental regulations.
The auditors issued several fines after finding traders in breach of Ministerial Decision No. 580 of 2015, concerning the prevention of fishing, selling and marketing of undersized fish, and Ministerial Resolution No. 500 of 2014, that regulates shark fishing and trade. The UAE has banned the fishing and sale of sharks during five months of the year, from February 1 to June 30, to allow the apex predators — that are vital to marine health — to breed and replenish stocks.
The 1,730kg of illegally caught undersized fish and sharks, including black-tip reef sharks and juvenile sheri, were confiscated by inspectors and donated to charities who support low-income families.
The ministry said compliance with the country’s fishing laws is crucial to preserve stocks and maintain a healthy marine environment.
The offences came a few days after authorities in Fujairah said they were investigating a fisherman who caught a pregnant 350kg bull shark off the coast of the emirate.
In January, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, met fishermen in Umm Al Quwain and asked them to stop using methods that deplete fish stocks and harm marine life.
The UAE has 153 chondrichthyans — a class of cartilaginous fish that includes sharks, rays, skates, sawfish and chimaeras. Of these, 78 species are considered threatened in the Arabian Sea region.
Last year, the ministry launched a four-year action plan to save sharks from the brink of extinction after a report showed that three species had not been recorded in the region for at least three decades and are possibly extinct here.
The National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2018-2021 outlines a detailed strategy to raise public awareness about the importance of shark conservation for the marine ecosystem and enhance research on local shark populations.
Irresponsible fishing during banned seasons and a lack of clarity regarding the types of nets that can be used in UAE waters has led to 85 per cent of key species, such as hamour and sheri, to have been severely overexploited.
The Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey, an expansive study by the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) described the results as a conservation emergency that could result in the species’ extinction from the waters of the Arabian Gulf forever.