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Sale of small fish spawns trouble for marine stocks.

Byline: Emmanuelle Landais

Dubai Fishermen in the Deira fish market are reported to be bringing in too many small fish in violation of a ministerial decree that prohibits the sale of fish under a certain size.

Catching and selling such fish causes a decline in stocks.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Environment and Water took a tour of the fish market last week to monitor the size of the fish on sale.

According to Ministerial Decree 16 for 2010, catching of fish under a certain size is prohibited as they represent young or juvenile fish that have not been given a chance to reproduce.

During the inspection, Saif Mohammad Al Shara, Executive Director of Water Resources and Conservation at the ministry, emphasised that fisheries are among the country's most important renewable natural resources.

"It's an important resource for a number of factors. Fish is an important source of food, rich in protein and is a source of income and livelihood for fishermen, especially those who fish using traditional methods," Al Shara said.

He cautioned that it should not be taken for granted that fish stocks will renew year after year.

In a study conducted in 2002 it was found that fish stocks had dropped by 14 per cent since 1971 in the Arabian Gulf and three per cent in the Oman sea u due to overfishing.

Ghost fishing, the term given to forgotten fish traps or nets which continue to trap fish on a daily basis, is also responsible for killing off scores of species for no purpose.

A proposal of new fish sizes allowed to be caught, based on their length, has been sent to the Standing Committee of Fisheries to the General Secretariat of the Cooperation Council.

Overfishing was at the top of the agenda at the recent conference on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) held in Doha this month, however few of the species proposed for protection were granted it.

Among them was bluefin tuna which supporters had hoped would be listed in Cites Appendix I, which prohibits its international trade for commercial use as it is now critically endangered.

Also on the agenda was to list eight shark species on Appendix II, which lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

Parties failed to accept proposals to list the threatened hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, and spiny dogfish sharks. Only the porbeagle was approved.

The Cites unit at the ministry said shark fishing laws prohibit catching sharks during their reproductive period. The ministry said it is following up on the trade in shark fins.

Tom Strickland, the US Assistant Interior Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said regional fishery bodies have done nothing to regulate the trade in the endangered scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead as well as the threatened smooth hammerhead, and their numbers have dropped by as much as 85 per cent, AP reported.

"The greatest threat to the hammerhead is from harvest for the international fin trade," Strickland said. Shark fin soup is a prized delicacy in China.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 28, 2010
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