The client isn’t always right. And sometimes he isn’t just wrong, he needs an education. At Sea Mood restaurant off Dubai’s Satwa roundabout, he’s likely to get it.
Proprietor Mohammed Eid (right) only serves fish whose stocks are at sustainable levels, which means hammour, the big local favourite, is off his menu. “People come in and ask for hammour, but we simply direct them to other options,” he told GN Focus on a tour of his restaurant. He says he’s had customers walk out because they can’t get what they want and don’t care to listen.
Hammour is being fished at over seven times the sustainable level, according to statistics from the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS). EWS teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010 to roll out Choose Wisely, an awareness programme aimed at empowering consumers to make responsible, informed decisions.
The problem also extends to such species as kingfish and the Orange-spotted grouper, which are being overfished or removed too early in their lifespan, Lisa Perry, Programmes Director, EWS-WWF, says in an email.
“Here in the UAE, 60 per cent of the total catch is made up of species that are fished beyond sustainable levels,” she says. “Since 1978, the UAE has seen an overall decline of 80 per cent in the average stock size for all commercial species.” Eid’s Sea Mood is one of only a handful of restaurants to comply with the EWS-WWF recommendations. Fifteen hotels, including the Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi and the Hilton Dubai Creek, now only serve sustainable fish. For Eid, this means cream dory, sea bream, mullet and shrimp. Kebabs, shawarma and tagine are all on the menu. The Finnish national says reactions have been variable since he opened in June and he isn’t quite making a profit yet.
But he insists he’s not going to change his mind. “I tell the local people, ‘You must take care.’ Once the hammour is gone, we will eat something else — and so on, until there’s nothing left. I’m not from Dubai, but I want to leave something for my children.”