UAE fishermen told to remove gargoor 'dead cages' from sea

The ban on the traditional traps comes into force in Abu Dhabi in a few weeks

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Fishermen have been told to remove traditional fishing cages that have been blamed for killing endangered species ahead of a upcoming ban.

Gargoors are traditional metal traps that have been blamed for targeting exploited species such as hammour.

They are to be prohibited in Abu Dhabi from May 1 and the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi on Saturday urged the community to dispose of the cages at ports in Mina Zayed, Sila, Taweelah and Delma.

The ban was introduced by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment after a study pinpointed a "significant decline" in Abu Dhabi of the population of two of the country's most threatened species - hammour and farsh. It is believed that more than 85 per cent of the UAE's hammour populations have been wiped out.

Aside from over-fishing, abandoned gargoors also pose a huge threat to marine life. The cages are often weighted down with a simple brick, but strong currents can push them along the seabed and they become lost. The fact they are made of metal and do not disintegrate easily compounds the problem.

Ahmed Al Hashmi is acting executive director, terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector, at Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.

“During our last survey with research vessels, we noticed that in every trip we could have taken up old gargoors or inactive gargoors in most of the locations," he said.

“The problem is that they accumulate a lot of fish inside - some are endangered fish and found rarely in these waters. It is like a dead cage. Everything enters."

Gargoors used on boats registered for research and scientific study are excluded from the ban.

The issues of abandoned fishing nets - or ghost gear - is a global problem. The UN Environment Programme has reported that between 600,000 and 800,000 metric tonnes of 'ghost gear' enters the world’s oceans each year.

Environmental authorities, meanwhile, have begun the fightback to restore the UAE's depleted fish stocks.

A sweeping 12-year plan that aims to reverse the rapid decline in fish species, enhance local fish-farming and rebuild denuded habitats was unveiled at the World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

New legislation, tougher enforcement and tighter scrutiny of the commercial, spearfishing and recreational fishing communities all come under the scope of the initiative.