x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Film warns of the end of seafood

Documentary says the global fish catch has been declining for decades and without a change to current fishing practices, many species will be extinct by 2048.

Environmentalists say that overfishing could lead to depleted stocks by the middle of the century.
Environmentalists say that overfishing could lead to depleted stocks by the middle of the century.

The planet's important fish species could be extinct by the middle of the century if today's fishing practices continue, an Abu Dhabi audience was warned yesterday. The alarm was sounded by End of the Line, a film based on investigations by the British journalist Charles Clover that explores the link between industrialised fishing and the collapse of fish stocks. The documentary was screened by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) for an audience of environmentalists, conservationists and fishing specialists in the capital yesterday, to mark the first Oceans Day. It also premièred in the UK yesterday.

It shows how the global fish catch has been in decline since the late 1980s despite technology allowing ships to find fish more easily. Scientists in the film say the world could run out of most seafood by 2048 if fishing is not reduced. The film focuses on blue-fin tuna, whose fame as a delicacy is threatening it with extinction. Large-scale fishing also threatens the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen in Africa and Asia, the film said.

In the UAE, fishing is mostly artisanal, but it has had a serious impact on local fisheries, said Dr Thabit al Abdessalaam, the director of the marine biodiversity management sector at the EAD. The country's four most important commercial fish species reached record lows in 2001 and 2002, reports by the agency show. Abu Dhabi responded with regulations on fishing gear and boats. Since 2001, Abu Dhabi's stocks of the four most important local fish - hammour, sha'ary, farsh and zuraydi - bounced back but are still fished above sustainable limits.

The documentary suggests setting aside 20 per cent of the ocean as protected areas off-bounds for large-scale fishing. At present, there are 4,000 protected areas, covering just one per cent of the world's oceans. vtodorova@thenational.ae