Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Two species of lookalike fish are sold as hammour, one of UAE’s favourite fish, in UAE markets, researchers have found.

Hammour is the orange-spotted grouper fish but two other similar-looking species are also sold as hammour, a new paper published in Marine Pollution Bulletin by NYU Abu Dhabi researchers said on Tuesday.

Hammour has been reported as overfished in the region at six times the sustainable level.

Remi Ketchum, a graduate who led the researchers, said he hoped the findings “will aid fisheries management and also prompt people to choose a more sustainable fish for consumption.”

Understanding genetic diversity in fish species enables researchers to determine the effects of overfishing and environmental pressures. It also informs officials on what protection measures to take.

For the study, researchers tested DNA from 140 tissue samples collected in four fish markets. The data revealed the presence of three distinct species, all being marketed as hammour.

NYUAD Associate Professor of Biology, John Burt said the results have “implications for fisheries management as earlier management efforts, which had assumed there was just one species, need to be broadened to account for possible differences in the biology of these three species.”

NYUAD Assistant Professor of Biology Yousuf Idaghdour added: “This work provides a much needed snapshot of the genetic make-up of grouper species in the UAE …”

Ketchum said the researchers “were able to tell that these three species have levels of genetic diversity that are similar to other critically endangered grouper species and that there are two species that remain underreported in the UAE.”