Abu Dhabi: A report by an ad hoc committee of the Federal National Council has warned that the current rate of exploitation of fish can cause the extinction of many marine species in the next 20 years.
The government’s failure to take firm measures to stop overfishing caused some 80 per cent of the UAE’s fish stocks to be either overexploited or depleted, said the report.
The House will be debating policies to protect Emirati fishermen and farmers on Tuesday next week, as the farming and fisheries sectors are key sectors to ensure food security in the country.
Lack of support to agriculture had pushed Emirati farmers off their land with only 33,000 out of more than 170,000 farmers in the country being nationals, and accounting for less than 20 per cent of the total number.
Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, said unsustainable fishing practices pose a major threat to UAE’s fisheries, pointing out the alarming decrease in the amount of fish caught off the country’s territorial waters bordering the Arabian Gulf and the Sea of Oman over the past three decades.
Marking the World Fisheries Day, which was commemorated on November 21, Bin Fahd said comparative studies which were done to measure demersal fish stocks in the Emirates sound a warning for the outcome of the status of fisheries, if natural pressures and unsustainable fishing practices continue at the current rates.
The ministry, along with other stakeholders in the country, he said, is working hard to protect the fisheries and aquatic resources and ensure their sustainability. Regarding fishing pressures and other challenges, the Ministry is basing its actions on two strategies — first, the enactment of legislations and the development of regulations and standards to ensure strict implementation of sustainable fishing practices. This will be done in conjunction with all concerned federal and local authorities as well as the fishermen’s associations in all regions of the country.
The ministry is also monitoring and regulating the fishermen’s associations in the country as well as raising the awareness of all stakeholders in the fishing sector.
The second strategy deals with improving the fisheries and aquatic resources by promoting aquaculture, protecting the marine and coastal environment, and increasing the number of marine-protected areas.
In recent years, the UAE has established more marine reserves, resulting in the country being placed first globally in the Environmental Performance Index in 2014 in terms of the number of marine-protected areas.