Hundreds of struggling fishermen share Dh3.8m fuel subsidy

Money from UAE Government will contribute to survival of business and aid poor workers.

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Almost 600 Emirati fishermen are to be given subsidies totalling Dh3.8 million per year to support their struggling businesses. The initiative will target poor fishermen from all the seven emirates, entitling them to fuel allowances worth of between Dh500 and Dh800 a month. The Ministry of Environment and Water has already started issuing the registration cards that will enable those eligible to claim their fuel money.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Foundation and Dubai Islamic Bank are footing the bill. A total of 581 out of more than 6,000 in the country will be given the subsidy, designed to offset increasing costs of equipment and gear. The total number of fishermen in the UAE has been rising steadily and now stands at about 22,000. Amran Mohamed Alshehi from the ministry's fisheries department said: "Prices are going up, fishing gear, boats and petrol are all becoming more expensive."

The ministry already supplies some fishermen with boat engines. Assistance is offered to those who have no other jobs and depend on the fishing to support their families. It also depends on how often they go fishing. For Ali al Mansouri, the head of the Abu Dhabi Fishermen Co-operative, the allowance would contribute to saving the traditional profession. "One of the reasons people are leaving this profession is the high cost of the fishing trip," he said.

Anwar Abdullah al Darbi, the head of the Ras al Khaimah Fishermen Co-operative, said he had hoped the allowance would cover more fishermen. "Fishermen are poor, especially in Ras al Khaimah," he said. "When support reaches everyone it's better." He said there were more than 800 fishermen in the emirate and most of them had no second jobs. "This won't change their income," he said, "but will definitely help because the fuel is getting more expensive."

Abdullah Sharif al Khader, owner of a fishing boat in Ras al Khaimah, said the fuel allowance was not enough but better than nothing. "This assistance is for those with limited income, but everyone is hoping for more assistance," said Mr al Khader, who also works as a health inspector at the northern emirate's fish market. "My job salary is only Dh2,000 a month, so I am on the same boat with the rest of the fishermen."

Mr al Khader, a father of three boys and two girls aged two to 14, said that the price of gargurs, metal fishing nets, had risen from Dh40 to Dh80 in less than two years. The FNC urged the Government in December to increase fishing subsidies if it was serious about protecting the industry. Another problem is the decline in fish populations. Many commercially important species have been exploited beyond sustainable levels.

The ministry has responded by capping the number of boat licences to 5,500 and, more recently, introducing minimum length requirements for 15 fish species, including the hammour.