x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fishermen want government on board in fight for survival

They hope regulation will ease overfishing and the halt fall of prices at fish markets.

Businesses usually shun regulation as most committed capitalists believe more red tape means less money in the bank. Not so the fishermen of the UAE, who are demanding that the Government step in to regulate their ancient industry in the hope that official oversight will stabilise the price of fish. The UAE's fishermen have long complained of falling fish stocks and sinking prices and welcomed an initiative launched this week by the Federal Ministry of Economy's Consumer Protection Department and the Ministry of Environment and Water to write rules for the industry.

Officials met with fishermen from around the Emirates on Sunday to discuss ways to improve the industry and support fish prices. Direj Krishna, a fisherman from Ajman, said the Government should reduce the number of fishing boats and fishermen in the country to protect fish stocks, reduce supply and in turn raise prices. In a complaint echoed by many fishermen, Mr Krishna also said that the middlemen who sell the fishermen's catch at markets should be outlawed, removing an unnecessary layer of costs from the industry.

"They should allow us to sell directly to people instead of using brokers," Mr Krishna said. "Maybe we will get better price." In Sharjah, fishermen baulked at the requirement that they take an Emirati on every fishing trip. "If they want to help us and the industry, they have to help us reduce cost," said Hassan Ahmed. "Like allowing us to go alone without a local companion who does nothing but is paid very well."

The required Emirati companions are paid an average of about Dh2,000 (US$544) per trip, which can last three to five days. Noore Deen, a Sharjah fisherman, said fishing boats bring about 600kg of mixed fish per trip. "In December, we could sell that for Dh12,000, but now we can only get about Dh11,000," he said. While supermarket fish prices remain high, at Ajman's fish market, the average retail price for hammour is Dh15 per kilo and sherry sells for Dh20. That is down from Dh20 and Dh25 a kilo, respectively, in February.

Dr Hashim al Nuaimi, the director of the Consumer Protection Department, said the ministries would build a database to study these price fluctuations and transfer the findings to higher authorities for action. business@thenational.ae