New research shows fish stock improvement in Abu Dhabi waters

The number of fish that can be sustainably caught in Abu Dhabi waters jumped 10 fold in two years

The number of catchable fish in Abu Dhabi waters has improved significantly in the past 12 months, research by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) shows.

The agency, which has been assessing the level of fish stock since 2001, revealed increases in its key indicator – the sustainable exploitation index (SEI).

Sustainable exploitation refers to fishing that does not have a negative impact on marine ecosystems.

The amount of productive fish in the sea – measured by spawning biomass per recruit (SBR) – also showed positive signs, more than tripling from 7.6 per cent in 2018 to 25.6 per cent in 2020.In 2018, the SEI indicator was 5.7 per cent, rising to 29.3 per cent in 2019 and reaching 57.1 per cent in 2020.

The figures show that some of the fish stocks are old enough to spawn,  allowing for regeneration.

Pressure on fisheries

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD's secretary general, said fish stocks in the UAE – similar to those around the world – are being depleted due to natural and human factors.

"Pressures, such as the overexploitation of fisheries and the acute depletion of fish species, have led to a decline in the stocks of many major commercial species to unsustainable levels, compared to global rates,” Dr Al Dhaheri said.

Several “decisive administrative measures” have been taken and procedures implemented that have helped to reduce the pressure on fisheries in the commercial and recreational sectors.

"This involves improving fish stocks, rehabilitating fisheries habitats and intensifying efforts to control and reduce this depletion,” Dr Al Dhaheri said.

“These measures taken by the agency aim to achieve sustainable fisheries, including restoring balance and sustainability of fish stocks and developing the aquaculture sector.”

Ahmed Al Hashemi, EAD's acting executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector, said there was an improvement in the SBR indicator for some key species, including the popular hamour fish, which more than doubled from 7.1 per cent in 2019 to 15.8 per cent in 2020.