Dubai: A dead dolphin found floating off the coast of Dubai has raised fears the country's fishing regulations are not being strictly adhered to.

The bloodied mammal, which was wrapped in a discarded fisherman's net, was discovered by members of a Dubai-based diving team several weeks ago, Gulf News has learnt. It had desperately been trying to give birth in the moments before it died.

Some members of the diving expedition were so disturbed they were reduced to tears; others were filled with indignation at the gruesome sight.

Fawaz Fares Alterkawi, owner of the Deep Blue Sea Diving Centre in Dubai, said the authorities should be doing more to protect the country's marine wealth by strictly ensuring adherence to the existing rules and regulations.

He said: "We were coming back from a diving trip, about an hour's journey from the coastline at Umm Suqeim, when we saw the dead dolphin floating in the sea. It was bleeding and had fishing net wrapped around its body; we couldn't believe it. There were 14 of us on the trip including four women, all of them burst into tears at the sight."

Alterkawi said members of his group had been coming across discarded fishing nets regularly on their diving trips both in Dubai and on the country's east coast. A lot of the nets are dislodged from the wreckage of abandoned ships, which have been made home by a vast array of marine life including dolphins, he said.

"We see a lot of things underwater but this is the first time we have encountered a dead dolphin floating on the surface of the water. People are throwing fishing nets into the sea and nobody is asking what they are doing; nobody seems to care about what is happening. We often go diving at an old anchor barge and we see so many discarded fishing nets; this is not a one-off incident, it is a common occurrence."

Hamad Al Rahoomi, consultant to Dubai Fishermen's Association, told Gulf News the sighting of the dead dolphin was an "abnormal situation".

He said: "Fishermen do not deliberately try and capture dolphins. They know it is not allowed and they know dolphins aren't worth much on the market. If a fisherman does catch a dolphin by mistake he immediately releases it.

"Fishermen aren't allowed to leave their fishing net in the water for a lengthy period of time. They leave it in the water for about an hour and then return to shore. If they left it unattended they would never see it again because it would be caught in the current and swept away.

"Furthermore, if the net is left in the water for a long period of time, the caught fish are spoilt; a lot of them die. The discarded fishing net could have come from the direction of the Iranian border but it was certainly not left behind by any Dubai fishermen."

Recreational fishing: Licences mandatory

In Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, the respective municipalities issue fishing licences but in Abu Dhabi it is the responsibility of the Environment Agency.

The licensing system, which was established in 2003, offers recreational fishing licences that are valid for a year. The Dubai Fishermen's Association boasts over 500 active members.

Abdul Razzaq Abdullah, fisheries adviser at the Ministry of Environment and Water, said: "The rules and regulations for protecting the fisheries in the UAE are as per federal law No. 23 (1999). The fishermen's activities are controlled on land by Dubai Municipality and at sea by the coast guard."