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MPs seek database of Bahrain's marine species.

MPs are demanding a comprehensive survey of Bahrain's marine species in order to create a proper database of fish stocks and near-extinct aquatic creatures.

Parliament's public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Abdulrazzak Al Hattab, who is spearheading the move, said the study would assess the extent of damage caused to coral reefs and other marine habitats by excessive fishing, trawling, dredging, drilling and land reclamation operations.

Urgent

The MP, who submitted an urgent project in May seeking to restore Bahrain's seabed after years of neglect, said the research can be conducted by the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry in co-operation with the Supreme Council for Environment.

"We are aware of the damage caused to the sea over the years but we don't know the extent of the damage," he told the GDN.

"We don't have proper data of the marine creatures found in Bahrain's waters, or the species that are near-extinction, migrating or dying en masse.

"It is the time for a comprehensive report so we can protect our resources, while allowing fishing and stocks to replenish at the same time."

Fishermen Protection Society president Jassim Al Jeran said experts should be brought in to create the database.

"There is no control on who enters the sea, what they do, or what they catch, and that is a huge variable in how efficient the study would be," he told the GDN.

"But it is a huge step forward and, besides, the study will be in line with the Premier's directives banning dredging.

"However, there should be more initiatives to protect our remaining resources."

Last Sunday, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa ordered an immediate halt to sand extracting and dredging north of Muharraq and in the Jarradah island.

Such operations will stay suspended until a comprehensive study is carried out of their impact on the nation's marine environment.

The Premier also tasked the ministerial committee for development projects and infrastructure to draw up new rules, in conjunction with ministries concerned and government bodies.

The GDN reported in May that there are 12 sand dredging firms currently operating in Bahrain - nine local companies dredging for building materials while three foreign ones extracting sand for major projects.

Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf had then said the government earned BD2.22 million from the 2.9m cubic metres of sand extracted last year, compared to BD3.677m from 7.3m cubic metres in 2017 and BD2.04m from the 4m cubic metres in 2016.

A nationwide ban on trawling came into effect last November, while in 2007 Bahrain designated an area 70km north of Muharraq - known as Hayr Bulthama - as a natural reserve.

The trawling ban was introduced after it emerged the country's fish stocks had dropped by 90 per cent since 2004.

Export

The ban also included a prohibition on the export of 14 species of sea life, including fresh or frozen fish and shrimp, a reduction in the number of fishermen allowed on each dhow or small fishing boat, and a training scheme for Bahraini fishermen.

Other efforts have included the 2012 creation of 10 artificial reefs at secret locations, by submerging 2,500 specially designed, hollow concrete balls on the seabed.

A new underwater theme park, complete with a submerged Boeing 747, featuring artificial reefs to attract marine life, has also been opened.

Meanwhile, a major voluntary campaign to clean up Bahrain's ports, beaches and islands is ongoing until September 21 as part of an awareness initiative to preserve marine life.

The 'Our Seas Clean' campaign is being spearheaded by the Bahrain Diving Volunteer Team, and features groups of divers cleaning the seabed, installing recycling boxes and clearing coasts.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Sep 8, 2019
Words:646
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