The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water has implemented fresh trawling regulations with effect from March 1, 2016.
The price of fish in various UAE markets is rising with vendors reporting shortage of fresh fish arrival.
The price of king fish is Dh40 per kg, compared to the last year’s price Dh25 per kg. The prices of other commonly used fish varieties have also gone up. Hammour now costs Dh30 per kg and the price of prawn goes up to Dh80per kg.
“Most fish prices have gone up by Dh20 to Dh30 per kilogram. As a result, customers aren’t buying as much as they used to,” said a fish retailer.
Vendors say their business is suffering due to a lack of fresh catch, which has all but dried out. Retailers say they’re now selling fish imported from neighbouring countries, especially Oman.
“From March 1 to April 30, there is a new restriction on fishing, especially Sheri and Safi, two popular fish varieties for UAE citizens and expatriates. We have been warned against displaying or selling these varieties of fish and if we are caught by the authorities, there is heavy penalty too,” said an Indian fish vendor in the Ajman Fish market.
“Usually, during the winter months of December until February, availability of fresh fish in the market used to be very smooth and prices remained low. But this year, the trend has been reversed,” he said.
In view of the temporary fishing restrictions, many expat fishermen have taken a break and have returned to their home countries for a few months.
The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources has been taking strict measures in issuing new fishing boat licenses and regulating illegal fishing trap methods to control the depletion of fisheries resources in the UAE that affect the income of fishermen community.
Overfishing was also causing depletion of some common popular fish varieties, according to an earlier MOEW report.
Two years ago, the Ministry imposed new restrictions on the size of fish traps used by fishing boats as the stock of fish in the UAE waters had come down substantially.
According to Ministry reports, in 2002, fish stocks were estimated at 1,735kg a square kilometer – the quantity of fish plummeted to 529kg per sq km in 2011.
In 1975, there was an estimated 9,100kg per sq km. These reports said the decline has been especially evident in commercially important fish species – the orange-spotted grouper (hammour), the shaari and the farsh.
The Ministry is also running a campaign to save shark – about 73 million sharks are killed every year at the rate of 833 sharks per hour. “We are not selling sharks too because it invites huge fine and penalty,” added another fish vendor.