No fishy business in the UAE
As half of the UAE’s fishermen were forced to quit their trade for lack of governmental support and dwindling fish stocks, the Federal National Council demanded that a fund be set up to boost the industry and conserve fish stocks.
Ali Eisa Al Nuaimi, a member from Ajman, said with fuel making up for more than 70 per cent of the operational costs of UAE’s fishermen, they refrained from travelling long distances into the sea which led to dwindling fish catch and higher prices.
“Half of the UAE’s fishermen were forced to quit their trade for lack of support from the government,” Al Nuaimi said, quoting a study by the Ministry of Economy.
“Emirati fishermen who own big fishing boats usually went to sea for longer durations to return with large volumes of fish catch. But, increasing fuel costs forced many not to travel far off resulting in comparably smaller fish catch available for the market,” said Al Nuaimi.
Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, disagreed and blamed dwindling fish stocks for fishermen leaving their trade. “The fish stocks decreased by 85 per cent between 1975 and 2010,” Bin Fahd said, stressing the government’s support to fishermen and the industry in general.
The minister also pointed out that the number of fishing boats increased from 1,065 in 1976 to a staggering 5,692 boats in 2009.
Al Nuaimi said fishing in the Gulf is an industry worth Dh1 billion a year, with the UAE consuming up to 100 tonnes of seafood annually at a rate of 33 kilograms per capita — the highest among GCC countries, and should not be left under the control of foreign workers.
He estimated that the share of local governments and Emirati fishermen was just 10 per cent.
The country’s fishing fleet is mainly manned by Asian workers, many of whom are paid according to the amount of fish they bring to port.
Al Nuaimi said Emirati fishermen are reeling under the pressure of steep fuel costs of up to Dh4,500, labour fees of nearly Dh3,000 to be paid for hiring expatriate labour for their boats, governmental fees, increase in prices of steel and fibreglass used for fishing boats and cages, among other expenses.
He urged local government departments to look at offering some subsidies and reprieve on fuel prices and other costs to fishermen, facilitate recruiting of expatriate workers, and social surety coverage for full-time fishermen
Emirati fishermen complained subsidies they receive from the government were not enough especially with fuel costs alone making up 70 per cent of a fishing trip’s costs.
The House also demanded establishing a fund for subsidising fodder and boosting animal resources.
The FNC member further reviewed the Ministry of Environment and Water’s policy on protection of soil and vegetation.