The UAE is cracking down on the use of illegal fishing nets after the discovery of five dead dugongs. Nick Ames has more
UAE authorities have taken action to clamp down on illegal fishing nets after the discovery of five protected dugongs in recent weeks.
An initial investigation prompted by the deaths, revealed that seven out of 10 fishing nets were illegal under UAE law and could prove fatal to marine wildlife.
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi swooped on locations used by commercial and recreational fishing boats after the discovery of five dead dugongs – also known as sea cows – including a pregnant female.
The agency took what it said were ‘extensive and unannounced inspections’ after the drowning of the protected species, in what is believed to be the worst incident of its kind in the UAE.
The inspectors, who arrived unannounced, uncovered widespread use of nets banned under federal law as they are easily lost at sea, ensnaring wildlife.
They also found 225 private and commercial fishing boats, which the agency describes as being ‘out of service’.
Working with maritime inspectors from the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority, teams covered about 7,000 kilometres, or 14 per cent of the Abu Dhabi coastline, in just 36 hours.
They found three more dead dugongs in Al Dhafra to the west of the capital, and more than 2,000 metres of nylon fishing nets abandoned in the water.
Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive director of terrestrial and marine biodiversity at the agency, 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.’