ABU DHABI, 6th March, 2018 (WAM) — Following the recent discovery of five dead dugongs, including an expectant mother, on Abu Dhabi’s Sa’adiyat public beach after they were drowned in illegal fishing nets, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, has carried out extensive and unannounced inspections of commercial and recreational fishing activities in the emirate.
In cooperation with the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority, CICPA, maritime inspectors, with law enforcement powers, visited the coastline and coastal waters of the Emirate. Up to 7,000 square kilometres, representing 14% of Abu Dhabi’s coast was covered in a total of 36 consecutive hours.
The first group of inspectors covered the area from the Eastern Mangrove Marina to Ra’s Hanjura near Taweela, inspecting fishing gear in the channels and khors around Sa’adiyat and Ra’s Ghurab Islands, Al Sadr Port, Al Bahya and Sheleala. The second group of inspectors covered the Al Dhafra region, specifically Al Radaim, Al Mugharah, Mirfa, Khor Al Bazm and Al Harmiya. The third group of inspectors started from Al Sila’a Port and covered Al Hamra, Shuweihat, Al Sila’a, Dohat Al Nakheel, Dohat Tolab up to Ra’s Ghumeis.
The inspectors found that around 225 fishing and recreational boats were out of service and that more than 70% of the nets inspected at fish landing sites were of the ‘hiyali’ (drift net) type. Such nets are illegal under federal law and are often lost at sea, causing the death of wildlife.
The inspectors also found three dead dugongs in Al Dhafra, in cooperation with the Centre of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi, Tadweer, in addition to more than 2,000 metres of nylon fishing nets abandoned by fishermen in the water. In addition, around10 ‘gargoor’ type fish traps that did not conform to the specifications set by law, were confiscated. Four violation reports were issued for the use of nylon nets and unlicenced recreational fishing boats.
Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, said, “In spite of strict recreational and commercial fishing rules and regulations in the emirate, effective management of our marine reserves and the great efforts made by other relevant authorities, the use of illegal and banned fishing gear and methods is still causing the death of dugongs, dolphins and turtles and other marine species.”
The recent death of dugongs caused from drowning in ‘hiyali’ fishing nets had necessitated immediate and deterrent action against violators, she added.
Al Dhaheri said that such extensive and unannounced inspections will continue in order to control irresponsible fishing practices and to prevent the use of illegal fishing nets. There would also be efforts to increase awareness amongst fishermen on the negative impact of illegal, lost and abandoned nets on marine life in Abu Dhabi’s waters. She noted that fishing with ‘halaaq’ nets is an alternative method to the use of drift nets, which require the presence of the fisherman.
Commercial and recreational fishermen caught using illegal and banned fishing gear and methods will be prosecuted. First-time offenders can receive fines of up to AED50,000 and/or a prison sentence of not less than three months, while second-time offenders can receive fines of up to AED100,000 and/or an imprisonment term of not less than one year.