Severely depleted fish species released into Abu Dhabi waters

A study by EAD released in January found 85 per cent of the sheri and hammour populations have been wiped out

Maryam Al Mehairi and Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri release the fish into Abu Dhabi waters. Courtesy Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
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The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi is stepping up its efforts to protect marine life in the emirate after releasing a batch of severely depleted fish species into the waters.

The released species included hamour (grouper), sheri (rabbit fish) and other economically important but highly exploited species.

The UAE’s fisheries have come under unprecedented pressure, warned Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, the agency’s acting secretary general.

The fish were released in protected marine areas off the Abu Dhabi coast.

A study by EAD released in January found 85 per cent of the sheri and hamour populations have been wiped out. Farsh has been depleted to seven per cent of its adult stock size. The average farsh is just two years old, 28 years short of its average lifespan.

Hamour, sheri and farsh (painted sweetlips) are overfished at five times the sustainable rate, said Dr Al Dhaheri at the release. Kanad (kingfish) are overfished at three times the sustainable limit.

“With these findings in mind, we announced our fish stock enhancement programme, which will help rehabilitate our fish stocks for the first time and enhance them,” said Dr Al Dhaheri.

“Throughout the programme, we will continue to assess the extent to which the stockpile has benefited from the released fish. Moreover, more batches of fish, made up of different species, will be released in protected areas along the emirate's coast.”

Diversifying fish sources is critical to food security, said Maryam Al Mehairi, the minister of state for food security.

"We at the Office of Food Security aim to lead efforts to diversify the sources of fish from natural sources within the Gulf waters by promoting research on the sustainability of the marine environment [and] strengthening the aquaculture sector, which is one of the most vital sectors in food production,” said Ms Al Mehairi in a statement.

The released fish were bred and tagged by the Aquaculture Center and Marine Studies on Abu Al Abyad Island.

The EAD requests that fishermen report any tagged fish caught to Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre to assist researchers in monitoring local fish stocks.