Dubai: Two species of fish commercially harvested from Gulf waters can be eaten responsibly by foodies without placing additional human pressure on dwindling fish stocks in UAE waters, said environmental watchdog groups on Monday.
Populations of the Giant Sea Catfish as well as the Yellow Tail Scad have been deemed as being “fished within sustainable levels and their stock is currently not experiencing heavy fishing pressure,” said the Emirates Wildlife Society and World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF).
The advisory comes as part of the groups’ Sustainable Fisheries Project to help protect fish stocks from overfishing through initiatives such as the Choose Wisely campaign which offers a pocket guide recommending sustainable fish species for consumption at the dinner table.
“Fish stock assessment studies carried out by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) show a severe decline in important UAE commercial fish stocks in the past 30 years, with some species currently fished at more than seven times the sustainable level,” said EWS-WFF in a statement. “Too many fish are being removed too early in their life cycle, reducing their potential to produce the next generation and consequently future stocks.”
The guide categorises fish into three categories depending on their vulnerability — green, meaning sustainable; orange for moderate harvest pressure and red representing overfishing and to be avoided.
Ida Tillisch, acting director-general of EWS-WWF, said in a statement that UAE residents are invited to “explore the culinary tastes of sustainable fish dishes this Ramadan and call on the community to help us expand the Choose Wisely recipe database by submitting their own recipes using any of the fish that now feature on our Choose Wisely green list. Choosing a sustainable option does not mean sacrificing taste, enjoyment or nutritious value.”
Tillisch said the Choose Wisely campaign was launched in 2010 to help stem overfishing in the UAE.
The EWS-WWF said that “60 per cent of the total catch is made up of species fished beyond sustainable levels and in the last 30 years, commercial fish stocks have declined by 80 per cent.”
The Choose Wisely guide can be downloaded for free at www.choosewisely.ae.
There are three grades of fish according to the health of their stocks in Gulf waters, says EWF-WWF:
•The Green category includes local species of fish whose stocks are not currently receiving heavy fishing pressure and therefore are recommended for consumption.
•The Orange category represents species of fish which may be consumed, and whose stock is being exploited within sustainable levels.
•The Red category includes fish which are being overfished beyond sustainable levels and whose population levels are being depleted. This category includes the popular hammour fish which is being overexploited at over seven times the sustainable level, along with seven other species.”