Fishermen say they face financial ruin due to new regulations to preserve stocks
FUJAIRAH // Emirati fishermen are frustrated with new regulations that they say will cause financial hardship.
The fishermen on the country’s east coast said they have lost faith in their work after the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment enacted regulations that ban the fishing of various types of fish during specific periods.
The rules also change the size of their traps and nets, curtail their fishing hours and prevent them from catching small fish.
Abdullah Muhyl, a fisherman from Dibba, said he paid about Dh35,000 to change his nets to meet the new regulations.
“They make us change all the fishing nets we have so as not to catch small fish,” said the 37-year-old.
“The environment and the depth of water are totally different between the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf – the ministry should know that and they should change their laws according to the area and be flexible.”
Mr Muhyl, who has five workers, said his income no longer covered the collective costs of living.
“Before the ban I used to earn between Dh80,000 and Dh100,000 per month and that amount used to cover all the charges,” he said.
“But now I get about Dh20,000, which barely covers the workers’ fees and costs.
“We can’t catch al sahna [a type of sardine] any more during their season and it’s considered gold to us, and we can’t use al hayala [a type of net] from October to April.
“Only fishermen know when it’s the best time to fish.
“They can’t ban us during the fishing season, they should ask the fishermen and take their advice before issuing any rule.”
The ministry recently issued ministerial decree No 471 of 2016. It regulates surface fishing using seines – weighted dragnets that hang vertically in the water – by standardising the specifications of the seines that can be used within a specific time frame.
The aim is to preserve, develop and ensure the sustainability of fish stocks.
“They made us change all the seines to fit their new regulations. The holes used to be two inches in size but they want it to be 3.3 inches in order not to catch small fish,” said Khalaf Al Zaabi, a fisherman from Kalba.
“We are fully aware of what might affect the marine life and we are not looking to catch fingerlings, but there are lots of small fish that we used to catch and earn money out of selling them, but not any more.”
Under the regulations, fishermen can operate only from 6am to 5pm.
“If they change the size of the holes in the net, at least they should let us fish at night,” said Mr Al Zaabi, 37.
“I have five fishing boats with 18 workers and I spend on them more than what I currently earn. I was born a fisherman but all these laws will make me quit what I love most.”
Salem Obaid, a fisherman from Fujairah, said all the fish that his colleagues were banned from catching were still being caught by fishermen from nearby countries, such as Oman, and they were still being sold at the seafood market in Fujairah.
“Many types of sardine have been banned here and because of that their prices soared.
“For example, before the ban a kilo of the salba was Dh10. Now it’s Dh50 and it’s provided by other countries,” he said.
Published: September 19, 2016 04:00 AM