Dubai: There is no better way to enjoy the few cool months in the UAE than to head out to the beach or to the sea. Fishing holds historical significance in the UAE and even today many people head over to the beach or onto a boat along with their fishing gear. If you would like to also enjoy fishing in the UAE, here is all you need to know about getting a fishing licence.
The UAE’s waters and its species are protected by Federal Law No. (23) of the year 1999 concerning the exploitation, protection and development of the living aquatic resources. The article protects the aquatic wildlife by clearly stating the protected zones and prohibited equipment that are banned from use in the UAE. The law also bans fishing during the fertilisation or reproduction seasons and determines the minimum size of fish that can be caught, to protect the marine eco-system. The ban on fishing is announced each year and the respite allows time for fragile fish stocks to replenish.
It is prohibited to capture sea turtles of all species sizes and ages, or collecting their eggs or tampering with their habitat and propagation places in the Fishing Waters. It is also impermissible to catch whales, sea cows (Alatwam) and other sea mammals of all species and sizes or extraction oysters, sponges or coral reefs except for scientific research purposes and after obtaining a written permission from the Competent Authority.
What is the official fishing season of the UAE?
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has specified the months in which fishing is banned based on species. The complete list can be found here.
Which species are overfished?
In January 2018, The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) revealed the results of its Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey, which was completed over a period of two years. The survey indicated that mainly due to severe fishing pressures, key species like Hamour (Epinephelus coioides), Shaari (Lethrinus nebulosus) and Farsh (Diagramma pictum) were being fished between three and five times the sustainable limits for those species. Eighty five per cent of fish species stocks were considered overexploited when compared to sustainability standards.
According to the survey results, Farsh is severely exploited and has been reduced to 7 per cent of its adult stock size. Data collected on Farsh revealed that very few adult fish live over the age of two, despite an expected lifespan of over 30 years in the Arabian Gulf.
Hamour’s stock size was found to be 12 per cent of unexploited levels. For the Hamour, which has a life span of over 20 years, they are only growing to a maximum age of eight years.
Shaari was another overexploited fish with stock sizes at 13 per cent of unexploited levels.
In cases where such a species of fish is caught, it is recommended to release it back into the ocean.
How do I get a licence?
To go fishing in Abu Dhabi waters, citizens, residents and tourists need to apply for a licence at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). The licence can be applied for easily online here.
You can also call the agency on 02 693 4444
These are the different types of fishing licences that can be applied for:
1. Commercial fishing licences
Commercial fishing licences are issued to professional fishermen in Abu Dhabi. To get this service, the following conditions the applicant:
• Must be a UAE citizen and registered with Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCaE).
• Must have a fishing boat registered by the MoCCaE.
• Must have good conduct and behaviour.
• Must be at least 18 years old.
• Must comply with decisions issued by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and use allowed fishing equipment.
Cost: Dh200 for Tarad (speedboat)
Dh250 for Lansh (motor-engine powered dhow)
The same fee needs to be paid for the renewal of the licence.
2. Hadhra fishing licence
Hadhra is a traditional fishing method used in shallow coastal areas. This licence is issued to traditional UAE fishermen.
- Emirates ID
- Personal photo, a letter to EAD with coordinates of the fishing location
3. Fishing net permit (Al Ghazal)
This permit is issued to fishermen who own a speedboat and hold a commercial fishing licence. Net fishing is permitted in the waters of Abu Dhabi except for the areas banned by Law No. 23 of 1999 on the Exploitation and Protection of Living Aquatic Resources in the UAE (PDF), and the related local decisions. This service is provided to owners of fishing boats only, not of big fishing vessels.
4. Weekly recreational fishing licence
The public can apply for this licence, which enables them to fish along the Abu Dhabi beaches. It is issued for UAE citizens, expats (with valid visa) and tourists.
5. Annual recreational fishing licence
Holders of the annual recreational fishing licences are allowed to fish along the Abu Dhabi beaches. This licence is valid for one year and issued to citizens, residents and tourists. The applicant should be 18 years old or above and a UAE citizen or expatriate (with valid visa). Tourists would need to provide details of their tourist visa.
Processing Time: Three working days
- Copy of Emirates ID
- Personal photo
A gargour is a cage-like fishing trap with an opening that allows the fish to swim inside without being able to escape. It targets deep-water fish such as the hammour, jesh and zuraidi. Gargour permits are issued for commercial fishers having big fishing launches (motor-engine powered dhow).
‘Bohoor’ signifies internal waters and the UAE’s regional waters within the Abu Dhabi emirate. This permit allows traditional fishers to practise fishing in these areas. It can be renewed every four years.
- Emirates ID
- Copy of the family book
- A letter directed to EAD with the location coordinates
Dufara fishing permit
Dufara is a small fishing net used in shallow waters to catch fish such as the golden trevally, scaled queenfish and the yellowtail scad. This service requires the applicant to have a registered fishing boat.
Cost: No fees
- Copy Emirates ID
- Copy of fishing boat ownership
The Natural Resources Protection section of Dubai Municipality is the competent authority to provide licensing services for fishing within the emirate’s regional water. There are two types of fishing licensing service provided by Dubai Municipality:
Recreational fishing licence
This service enables the customer to obtain a licence for recreational fishing using the fishing rod only. This licence allows fishing from the coast, or using a boat in coastal waters of the emirate of Dubai. Fishing will be in compliance with the terms of the Federal Law No. 23 of 1999 amended by Federal Law No. 7 of 2016 on Protection and Development of Bio-Aquatic resources in the UAE and related regulations. This service is available to citizens and residents. The licence is valid for a renewable term of one year. The service is suspended from June to October of every year to keep sustainable consumption of local fish resources.
Artisanal fishing licence
This service enables the customer to obtain fishing licence in the UAE’s marine waters as per the Federal Law No. 23 of 1999 amended by Federal Law No. 7 of 2016 on the requirement of protection, and development of Bio-Aquatic resources in the UAE and according to the procedures of Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. This service is available and eligible by UAE national artesian fishers. Applying for this service requires an approval from the local fishing organisation.
To apply for a licence in Dubai, click here.
Ras Al Khaimah
In Ras Al Khaimah, Environment Protection and Development Authority is the entity competent to issue fishing licences in the regional waters of the emirate. Its duties include regulation of fishing and protection of fish resources in the emirate. Fishing for recreational or commercial purposes is not allowed in Ras Al Khaimah without obtaining a licence from the authority.
Fishing boats registration
Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is in charge of issuing licences and registering fishing boats all over the UAE. According to the Ministerial Decree Ho. 372 of 2013 on Temporary Suspension of New Fishing Boat Registration (PDF in Arabic), Ministry of Climate Change and Environment suspended issuance of licences for new boats. Current licences issued by the ministry cover sale, assignment, replacement of damaged boats and transfer of title to heirs. To licence a fishing boat, the owner of the boat must:
• Be a citizen of the UAE
• Be at least 18 years old
• Get security approval
• Have a fishing licence from the competent authority
• Not have been previously registered with the ministry
• Have fishing experience
Where can I go fishing in the UAE?
If you are looking to take up fishing, you would largely have two options: deep-sea fishing and shore fishing.
Muhammad Ishakov, co-founder of Jighead.ae, an online store for fishing equipment, spoke about how shore fishing seems to have gained popularity in the UAE.
He said: “More and more people want to learn this amazing hobby. However, beyond a hobby it becomes a sport and many anglers, or fishing enthusiasts, move from traditional fishing to more advanced and challenging methods of using artificial baits and lures, catching different types of fish.
“One of the best things is that enthusiasts who fish as a sport mostly practise catch and release, where they enjoy the fight with the fish and release them in most cases, or keeping just one or two legal size fish for the family table. This type of fishing is the most sustainable as it doesn’t affect the fish population.”
Where can you go for shore fishing?
While there are no officially designated areas for fishing, the following list has been compiled based on popular fishing areas around the UAE. However, it is important to note that fishing enthusiasts should always check around before they begin fishing in an area. Fishing is not allowed near swimming areas, areas with high security, fishermen’s harbours and construction and commercial areas.
If you have a weekly or annual recreational fishing license, you are allowed to fish in all areas of the emirate except the areas designated with “no-fishing” signs, according to Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi. Also, fishing is not allowed areas near bridges and waterways, marine protected areas, shooting and training areas, and areas where there are oil, gas or communications pipes. Fishing is also not permitted near palaces and residential areas.
1. Al Aryam Island
2. Al-Bateen Beach has a good fishing spot near Hodariyat bridge.
3. ICAD II has some popular fishing spots down the beach strip, including at Hameed Beach.
4. Al Raha Beach, near Yas tunnel
5. Yas Island
6. Eastern Mangroves
As for deep-sea fishing, you would need to hire a fishing charter boat. The advantage? You chase the catch, instead of waiting for it to come to you, according to Timur Khamitov, owner of fishinguae.com, a fishing charter operating in the UAE.
To catch larger fish, Khamitov said that a ‘trolling’ or ‘casting’ method is used.
“These are intended to create an environment where the smaller fish are moving, which then get attacked by the larger predator,” he said.
Where can you go for deep-sea fishing?
“There are no spots, but rather areas where usually shoals of fish move. Normally, anglers will look for active birds that will help them find shoals of fish that are hunting,” Khamitov said.
“Some of the best action can be found very near to the shore, and sometimes it requires going out 20km off-shore,” he added.
Khamitov added that at time anglers could even enjoy ‘bottom fishing’, catching fish that usually live near the sea floor.
“This happens mainly through some anomalies on the sea bed, like a ship wreck, or some formations that provide an environment for fish to build out an environment around it,” he said.
He went on to explain the different methods of fishing that are adopted by fishing enthusiasts in the UAE.
Trawling – In this method, as the boat moves, there is a jig or lure – which is basically a fake fish – attached to the boat, moving with it as well. It attracts predators that might come to attack it. Once the fish takes the bait, the line starts running and you pull the fish out.
Casting – Here the boat is static. You throw in the line with the lure and then reel it in. It has the same effect as trawling, where you have the lure moving at the top of the surface of the sea. Once the fish attacks the bait, anglers are able to catch it.
These two methods work on the surface and are primarily used to catch bigger fish like barracuda, kingfish, queenfish or bonitos.
Bottom fishing - This is a completely different concept, according to Khamitov, as it involves using a sinker, or a piece of weight, to drop the bait to the sea bed. The angler attaches a piece of squid to the hook along with a sinker. As the bait reaches close to the sea bed, the angler keeps moving it around, simulating the movement of a fish. Fish like sherri or hamour, which feed near the sea bed and are called bottom-feeders, are lured in.
Jigging – According to Khamitov, in this technique, the angler takes a jig, which is a smaller lure, like a small fish, and moves it around. This can be done right above the surface of the sea, it could be done near the sea bed (using a sinker) or the angler could move the lure from the sea bed right to the surface. “You have to recreate the movement of the small fish. If the fish or piece of squid is not moving, the fish might just consider it a plankton and not attack. With jigging, you play with the lure to make the bigger fish believe that the lure is a smaller fish,” he said.
Casting – “With casting, you have to be on the look out for other predators like seagulls,” Khamitov said.
Here, the boat’s captain takes the group of anglers towards where seagulls might be gathering. At some point, you will notice the water moving into what looks like a rolling boil.
“This is when the smaller fish are coming to the surface to eat the plankton and the bigger fish are coming close to the surface to attack the smaller fish. The seagulls are feeding on both these fish,” Khamitov said.
Once the surface begins to roll into an apparent boil, the shoal comes to the surface and you cast – throwing the line into the middle of this rolling water.
“You then reel your line in to recreate a moving fish. As you are reeling it in, the bigger fish attacks it and you pull it out,” he said.
What do I need in a starter fishing kit?
Some basic equipment you need in your fishing kit includes:
• A rod
• A machine or reel (the device on to which the line is attached)
• The line
• Different jigs, sinkers, hooks, lures.
“What you put at the end of the line can vary, you have a million options,” Khamitov said. You can shop for the kit and baits anywhere from discount markets to fishing equipment shops in the UAE.
Depending on the quality of the equipment, you can get a basic kit for relatively cheap. However, if you would like to invest in decent quality equipment, Khamitov recommends setting a budget of around Dh1,000.
What is a good time to go fishing?
Based on the feeding activity of fish, early morning or in the evening are the best times to go, according to Khamitov.
“Just after sunrise or just before sunset, that’s the feeding time of fish,” he said.