The average size of mature hamour in Abu Dhabi waters has increased by 18 per cent over the past two years. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The average size of mature fish stocks in Abu Dhabi waters has increased by 40 per cent over the past two years, the emirate’s environment sector regulator has announced.

The average size of mature hamour or the orange-spotted grouper increased by 18 per cent over the period, whereas as the average size of the naiser or Ehrenbergs snapper increased by five per cent, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) said in a statement. Similar increases in the size of mature fish stocks, averageing between four and 25 per cent, were noted among kanaad (kingfish), shaari (Spangled emperor), durduman (yellow tail scad), jesh (orange-spotted trevally), dhile (talang queenfish), and shaam (yellowfin seabream).

Sustainability of stocks

The findings mark the fourth year in a row that the EAD has recorded a significant improvement in its Sustainable Exploitation Index, which measures the sustainability of fish stocks. Since 2001, the authority has been monitoring the state of fish stocks according to two basic indicators of sustainability. The first, the Spawning Biomass per Recruit (SBR) index shows the percentage of the fish that are old enough to spawn, allowing for the renewal of the stock. The second indicator is the Sustainable Exploitation Index, used to describe the proportion of species that are sustainably exploited.

An increase in the index indicates that the administrative measures implemented in the fisheries are providing a positive impact, which will help lead to the recovery of fish stocks by 2030.

Stock renewal

The EAD’s data revealed that it had achieved the target percentage of the SBR, which determines the proportion of the stock volume of 30 main commercial species, compared to the volume of their untapped stock. In 2022, an increase of 40 per cent in the average stock size was recorded, up from 25.6 per cent in 2020.

Meanwhile, the index increased from 8.9 per cent in 2018 to 69.1 per cent at the end of 2022, and was calculated by evaluating a total of 35 fish species, which accounted for 97 per cent of landings in 2022.

Landing rates

The landing quantities of some major fish species has also improved, as has an expansion of their spread, thanks to strengthened protection operations and the activation of regulatory procedures. In fact, the EAD recorded an increase of 91 per cent in the landing rate of zuraidi (golden trevally) fish since 2020, up to approximately 15,000 kilograms in 2022, while the percentage increase in the landing of jedd (pickhandle barracuda) fish reached 90 per cent, reaching about 112,000 kilograms last year. The landing rate of faskar (two bar seabream) fish increased by 96 per cent since 2020, to about 800 kilograms in 2022. The landing of the umm dhrais’ (Indian snapper) fish increased by 25 times, from a total of 51 kilograms in 2020 to approximately 1,300 kilograms in 2022.

This increase in the landing rate has relieved pressure on fisheries and contributed to their recovery, proving that the results obtained in fisheries performance indicators underscores the importance of EAD’s continuing implemention of a ban on gargoor fishing and encircling net methods in Abu Dhabi waters.

Collaborative effort

The EAD stressed the importance of its existing cooperation with the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority in preserving the marine environment, regulating the exploitation of fish wealth, and supporting eco-tourism and cultural and recreational activities in Abu Dhabi.

The authority also praised the commitment of fishermen, and the cooperation of fishermen’s associations and their effective role in implementing the decisions and procedures related to fishing. This has contributed significantly to reducing the effects of overfishing on the marine environment, and helped achieve an improvement in the state of fish stocks in the emirate’s waters for the fourth consecutive year.