Abu Dhabi: Following the death of five dugongs, including an expectant mother who drowned in an illegal fishing net off Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat public beach, the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) has undertaken extensive and unannounced inspections of commercial and recreational fishing activities in the emirate.
These inspections revealed that around 225 fishing and recreational boats were out of service and more than 70 per cent of the nets being used at the fishing landing sites were Hiyali. These fishing nets are illegal under the federal law and are often lost at sea, causing the death of key marine wildlife.
The first group of inspectors covered the area from the Eastern Mangrove marina to Ras Haniora in Al Taweelah area, and inspected fishing gears in the canals and khors around Al Saadiyat and Ras Ghurab Islands, Al Sadar Port, Al Bahya and Al Shilila areas. Meanwhile, the second group of inspectors covered Al Dhafra Region, specifically Al Radeem, Al Mugharah, Al Mirfa, Khor Al Bazam and Al Haramiyah. The third group of inspectors started from Al Sila’a Port covering Al Hamra, Shuweihat, Al Sila’a, Doha Al Nakheel, Doha Tolab up to Ras Ghamis.
The inspectors also removed three dead dugongs from Al Dhafra area, in cooperation with Tadweer (The Centre of Waste Management — Abu Dhabi), in addition to more than 2,000 metres of nylon fishing nets abandoned by fishermen in the waters. In addition, more than 10 ‘gargoor’ (fish traps) that did not conform to the specifications set by law were confiscated and four violation reports were issued for using nylon nets and unlicensed recreational fishing boats.
“In spite of strict recreational and commercial fishing rules, effective management of our marine reserves and the great efforts made by relevant authorities, the use of illegal and banned fishing gear and methods is still causing the death of dugongs, dolphins, turtles and other marine species,” said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Daheri, executive director of terrestrial and marine biodiversity at the EAD.
“The recent death of dugongs caused by drowning in fishing nets namely “Hiyali” has called for immediate and deterrent action against violators,” she added.
Commercial and recreational fishermen caught using illegal and banned fishing gear and methods will be prosecuted, the EAD warned. First-time offenders can receive fines of up to Dh50,000, which may be accompanied by a jail term of not less than three months. Meanwhile, fines will increase to Dh100,000 for second-time offenders, with a possible imprisonment term of not less than a year.
Al Daheri pointed out that these extensive and unannounced inspections will continue in order to control irresponsible fishing practices and prevent the use of illegal fishing nets, alongside raising awareness among fishermen on the negative impact of illegal, lost and abandoned nets on marine life in Abu Dhabi’s waters. She added that fishing by Halaaq is considered an alternative method to the drift net Hiyali, as Halaaq nets require the presence of the fisherman from the beginning to the end.
The EAD urged all fishermen and boat owners to comply with the laws and regulations set to conserve marine life, and to contact EAD customer services to obtain permits and licences for commercial or recreational fishing activities. The EAD’s website also provides updated information on permitted fishing seasons and methods.