Resident flout mangroves fishing rules

Fishermen say that they are unaware of environment agency rules making it illegal to use a rod and line, despite warning signposts.

An angler empties his keepnet of fish into the waters of the Eastern Mangroves along Salam Street. Most days the banks are full of anglers enjoying their hobby and taking in the beautiful scenery. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Recreational anglers are continuing to ignore “no fishing” signposts that have been erected along the Eastern Mangroves.

The mangroves are a protected home to a diverse array of wildlife including birds, fish, foxes, turtles, crabs and reptiles.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, or Ead, has warned all visitors and residents that fishing in the area is illegal, but warning signs installed around the water are being blatantly ignored.

“All types of hunting/ fishing are strictly forbidden in the area,” an Ead spokesman said. “Do not feed damage, disturb, or chase any of the wildlife in the mangrove and sea area.”

Many of those fishing in the area did not possess a recreational fishing licence – and were not even aware of the rules. Jordanian E S, who lives close to the mangroves on Salam Street, fishes there with his mother and did not think that his hobby would harm the habitat of the marine species.

Despite a warning sign in place directly behind where he was fishing, he said: “it’s just a leisure fishing, not professional. We stroll down on the beach area every Friday along with family members to unwind.

“Even the amount of fish we catch here wouldn’t be sufficient for us, it’s just for fun.”

He thought that fishing with a net for professional purposes would be considered illegal, but he was unaware that leisure fishing was disallowed.

“We just want to sit beside the sea and enjoy watching the magnificent beauty of the mangroves here,” he said.

He said he had never been approached by police or officials when fishing in the area.

Fridays are a popular day for fishing at the Lagoon National Park, with anglers lining up along the three kilometre bank, casting out their lines.

“I come here every Friday to fish and I find the area good for fishing. In the past I have caught a 2.5kg sherry fish,” said H M, an Abu Dhabi resident.

He said he was unaware that it was illegal to fish in the area.

“I didn’t know that and nobody has ever asked us to leave,” he said. “This is not professional fishing – this is a kind of entertainment beside the sea. We come here for the fresh air and we bring along our fishing gear to pass time leisurely,” Mr M said.

Mr M said he had caught a good number of sherry fish, but confessed he did not have a fishing licence.

B G, a Nepalese national, had three fishing lines cast out with his friend and said he was only keeping the sherry fish he caught. If he caught another species he would release it back to the water.

Despite knowing that he was not permitted to fish there, Mr G said he had never seen inspectors.

“Normally I go to the Mussaffah Industrial area beach for fishing. This is the first time I have ever fished here,” Mr G said.

However, a Bangladeshi national, admitted to “coming regularly on Fridays to fish on the Eastern Mangroves”.

As well as fishing being banned it is also prohibited to swim, jetski or kayak in the waters of the marine channel of the Mangroves Corniche until the water purification and marine maintenance work along the channel has been completed.

“This is for your safety. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi will not be held responsible for any damage or harm that may occur to the offenders,” a sign warned.

anwar@thenational.ae