Abu Dhabi: About 1,500 fishing boats in Abu Dhabi have started avoiding catching popular sea fish Al Badah (Longtail Silver Biddy) from Monday following a temporary ban on its fishing and sale issued by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
Although the ban will deprive Abu Dhabi residents of their favourite dish for two months, it will help enhance the long-term availability of the fish.
This step has been taken for the restoration of the dwindling stock of Al Badah, to give the species some time to breed and replenish, a senior official told Gulf News.
The two-month-long ban from April 1 to June 1 is to facilitate the spawning of Al Badah, , said Sultan Abdullah Bin Alwan, Assistant Undersecretary for Water Resources and Natural Conservation at the ministry.
Although the spawning season of Al Badah starts in April and ends by late August, April and May witness its peak. That’s why the two-month-long ban will have a considerable effect on restoring the stock, though it looks a short time, he said.
Asked why the ban is enforced in Abu Dhabi alone, Bin Alwan said the decision was taken based on studies conducted by the Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi (EAD) and its recommendations [about the dwindling stock and remedial steps for restoration].
He said according to the latest statistics from Abu Dhabi , Al Badah constitutes 1.2 per cent of the total fish catch, that is approximately 45.4 tonnes worth Dh 745,000 and only 1.1 per cent of the total value of catch landed in 2012.
The bulk of the catch was landed at Al Marfa and Al Saadiyat, while small landings were also reported from Al Bateen and Free Port as per EAD’s Annual Statistics Report on fish, the official said.
He clarified that Al Badah is not under threat of extinction. It does not fall under any threatened category of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) or CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The ban is in line with the strategy of the ministry to ensure sustainable fisheries, Bin Alwan said. “It is a step towards sustainability.”
The ban is a precautionary measure to avoid overfishing of Al Badah by keeping its fishing within sustainable limits.
About the significance of Al Badah, he said it is an integral part of the coastal and shallow water marine ecosystem. It is considered as food fish, being a popular item on the diet of the local population, especially as dry fish.
The fishing nets used for fishing Al Badah have also been banned during the same period. The main fishing nets used to fish Al Badah are ‘Sakhar’ and ‘Ghazal’, which have been banned, Bin Alwan said.
The ban on Al Badah fish comes at the right time because traditionally this species is a sought-after fish during the time of spawning because of the eggs it carries and the associated ‘fatty’ meat taste, a senior official told Gulf News on Monday.
Since the ban protects the species from further exploitation during the critical time of propagation, the ban period helps to to protect the species from extinction, said Stanley Hartmann, Unit Head, Fisheries Investigation and Monitoring at EAD.
He said at the moment Al Badah is the only fish species protected during its spawning season. It is not known if and when authorities will implement a further ban to protect the exploitation of heavily exploited specie like Hamour, Farsh and Shaari.
Al Badah is an important species in the food chain feeding on small organisms, crucial to the sandy–coral-line habitats of Abu Dhabi, Hartmann said.