Jet skis are main target of Emirates Creek boat ban

Umm al Qaiwain police impose temporary suspension until next month to protect fish stocks, but hotels fear trade will be affected.

The Emirates Creek in Umm al Qaiwain is deserted after fishing and boating were banned to support the region's fishing industry.
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UMM AL QAiWAIN // Police have put an immediate ban on boating on the Emirates Creek until the end of next month in an attempt to support the Umm al Qaiwain fishing industry. The decision came after police ordered a halt to fishing in the creek from February until June 30, the breeding period for most fish. Jet skis in particular are a hazard to the fish, said Col Yousef Ibrahim, the director of the UAQ Port Police.

"The problem with jet skis is that when young fish hear them, they escape from the creek, and most of the people here are fishermen," he said. "While it's true this is a time when we are getting many tourists and jet ski riders, the good thing is that the decision is temporary." Marine police and other patrols will enforce the boating and fishing bans, though they will not issue fines to offenders, Col Ibrahim said.

The decision to ban fishing in the area had been strictly observed by fishermen, he added. Police had not seized any nets, the punishment set for offenders. News of the move was apparently expected by some local merchants; no boat-rental companies were operating at the creek one day last week. Others were more optimistic. Nasser Akram, who owns a jet ski rental company that operates in Sharjah and UAQ, said that there was still the opportunity of jet-skiing outside the creek. Still, he expected to get most of his customers elsewhere for the time being.

"At present I am concentrating my business in Sharjah's Mamzar area," he said. "There are [fewer] restrictions there. Mustafah al Zarrouni, a 30-year-old Emirati who was unloading his jet ski at the creek, said that he was not aware of the decision and had been surprised by the lack of activity there. He managed to get his machine into the creek and started riding without anyone stopping him. "The only place you can ride a jet ski is a creek," he said. "You can't take it so far into the sea or go somewhere out of sight of people or marine rescuers because it's dangerous. They should rethink on this."

A Lebanese visitor at the Creek, who identified herself only as Lucy, said that increasing regulations on entertainment and sporting activities were injuring the tourism industry the emirate sought to create. "Before, there was a ban on night clubs, now it's a temporary ban on jet skiing," she said. "Who knows, maybe a ban on swimming is on the way." A spokesman for one UAQ hotel said that the number of guests at his establishment had decreased considerably because of the many regulations on entertainment activities.

"When we used to have a nightclub, all rooms were booked on weekends," he said. "Now we have less than half the bookings on weekends. "Most customers now are beachgoers, and if such regulations restricting beach-related activities like jet skiing come into force, we fear we may lose all our customers." Abdul Karim Mohammed, the president of the UAQ Fishermen Association, said the decision was taken to protect the interests of the tourists and fishermen.

"If abstaining from jet-skiing for a few months will help the fish industry to grow, the tourism industry will also benefit with a good supply of fish, as tourists also need to eat good food," he said. ykakande@thenational.ae