Undersized fish seized from Dubai markets

The Dubai Municipality has seized 890 kilograms of fish that have been prematurely removed from the sea.

Dubai - August 24, 2009 - Hammour and Sharey at a stall in the Dubai Fish Market in Dubai August 24, 2009.  (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)  *** Local Caption ***  JT010-0824-OASIS FISH_MG_0026.jpg
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DUBAI // Nearly a ton of undersized fish has been seized from markets after a ban on catching them before they are fully grown.

A month after launching a campaign to protect fish stocks, Dubai Municipality announced yesterday that inspectors had seized 14 species of undersized fish and had imposed penalties on traders and fishermen.

"The quantity of seized fish is 890 kilograms out of 300,000kg of total fishes that came to the market during the inspections period. [This]represents 0.03 per cent of total traded fish," said Khalid Mohammed Sharif, director of the municipality's food control department.

The nine-month drive, Development and Sustainability of Live Aquatic Wealth, aims to prevent the decline of fish stock - notably young king fish, hammour, gish and pomfret. It also aims to curb illegal and harmful fishing practices.

An awareness campaign targeting fishermen, supermarkets, malls and hotels was launched after irresponsible fishing led to the death in February of thousands of tuna, 18 nautical miles west of Dubai in the area known as Boya Zahra.

Yesterday, the municipality said the campaign was netting positive results, with officials seeing a dip in the quantity of undersized fish being seized.

"About 186kg was seized in the first day of checking, but it was reduced to 9kg after 15 days from the launch of the campaign, which shows [its] success," said Mr Sharif.

He added that offenders had been punished but would not detail what penalties had been imposed.

Dubai Municipality previously said that errant fishermen, supermarkets and traders would be fined Dh1,000 but that the amount could increase in the event of repeat offences. The authority warned it would close businesses in some cases.

As part of the drive, circulars were issued and picture signboards installed at fish markets. These included details about the ban and the permitted sizes of fish. The allowable sizes are minimum lengths of 17 centimetres to 45cm, depending on the species.

Mr Sharif said fliers had been distributed to all fishermen and merchants in the emirate.

The crackdown on catching and selling small fish began after officials found several premature, tiny fish in markets and restaurants.

Existing federal laws prohibit their sale but the drive is expected to improve compliance. Officials said the drive would be implemented across the UAE.