x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Another event is reeled in

Leading anglers will be hooked by the Fujairah Classic and its bait of a bite at the world title.

The fish bite in Fujairah for these anglers and organisers of the Fujairah Classic are confident of a big catch in October.
The fish bite in Fujairah for these anglers and organisers of the Fujairah Classic are confident of a big catch in October.

A fortnight before Abu Dhabi plays host to its inaugural Formula One Grand Prix, the world's best anglers will descend on another emirate for a less heralded, but equally competitive, sporting showpiece. Hordes of sea-faring rod-bearers are plotting courses for the Fujairah Classic - the UAE's first International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) sanctioned event - and while the three-day tournament is unlikely to generate worldwide publicity akin to an F1 season finale, landing the tournament still represents a stellar catch, believe the organisers.

"The Fujairah Classic will be the biggest tournament of its kind within the UAE," said the tournament director, Bruce Fennessy. "Sport fishing is really taking off on a daily basis locally and major tournaments like the Fujairah Classic are vital in growing the sport regionally." The South African speaks from experience; only miles down the coast, five successful Sinbad Classics - another Fennessy competition - have established Oman as a world-class sport fishing centre.

And he sees no reason why a UAE-based event cannot provide a similar springboard to propel the country's global standing as an emerging hotspots for sport fishing. Fennessy said: "Fujairah is blessed with a wonderful coastline and we are hoping for a large turnout from anglers all across the Emirates and the Gulf - we even have a team flying in from Finland." The opportunity to secure a spot in next year's IGFA offshore world championships in Mexico should also prove an attractive lure for the region's anglers.

"The prestige of winning a tournament like this and representing the Fujairah Classic in Cabo San Lucas is something every angler will be chasing," he said. Regional representatives have traditionally done well in the annual Pacific showdown. The 2008 Sinbad Classic winners, Team PDO RC1, finished ninth - out of 63 teams from 27 countries - in May. This year's Sinbad champions, Dubai-based "Xtreme Derbas", will be joined in the "Marlin Capital of the World" next year by Fujairah's victors.

With provisions to host 40 teams during the October 15-17 event being made, much of the Fujairah Classic's success will depend on no repeats of the man-made and natural disasters which have endangered the coastline in recent years. Illegal dumping from tankers sailing international waters have tarnished waters and beaches, and, earlier this year, a Red Tide outbreak, left the emirate's delicate marine biology reeling.

Major Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed Darak, the managing director of Fujairah International Marine Club, believes the area's well- documented problems are over. "We had a problem with Red Tide but the high summer temperatures have caused it to disappear," he said, adding: "Fisherman and our crews haven't reported Red Tide sightings since the end of May - it is all gone." Darak also believed newly introduced preventative measures will reduce spills blighting Fujairah's beaches. "We haven't had any spills for a long time. It remains under observation but the coastguard, navy and some professional companies are monitoring the big tankers and I don't think there will be any problems," he said.

Fennessy supported Darak's positive outlook. "We have conducted an extensive, 18-month market research programme and Fujairah meets all IGFA's strict regulations for hosting international-standard tournaments," he said. "Considerations have been taken to ensure the running of the event and the safety of our competitors. We've examined proposed postponement dates which could be enforced for a variety of eventualities, including on-the-day weather issues," Fennessy said."

Sport fishing's ethos of eco-protectionism means the Fujairah Classic is not designed to raid the emirate's waters of prize fish, and the tournament will operate a "catch and release" policy on all billfish, with catch limits or bag limits on other species. Indeed, while the tournament is viewed as an avenue for promoting east coast tourism, Fennessy insisted he and local authorities understood the need to balance growing the sport with sustaining the natural environment for future generations.

"Our motto is sustainability through sport and our three key areas - tourism development, environmental awareness and youth development - are of paramount importance in all our tournaments," he said. "The industry is a niche product in a niche market - this tournament is a perfect fit to help boost tourism development along the UAE's east coast." @Email:emegson@thenational.ae