x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The net effect of a tough summer in Abu Dhabi

The past few months at Mina fish market have been the hardest for many years, as scorching heat has taken a heavy toll on the fish supplies.

Prices have soared at Mina Fish market this summer but are expected to start falling soon. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Prices have soared at Mina Fish market this summer but are expected to start falling soon. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // This summer has been the toughest in years for fishermen at Mina Zayed.

Small catches, high temperatures and even higher prices are making life difficult for shoppers and traders at the Mina fish market.

The heat of the summer months has made it impossible for fishermen to spend more than a few days at sea, while the fish they are trying to catch have been seeking cooler waters too deep for their nets to reach.

However, there is year-round demand for fish, so smaller catches during the summer often sell for inflated prices, much to the dismay of shoppers.

"I would not buy hammour and shrimp from here, I would travel to Dubai or Sharjah to get it in bulk because here it's too expensive," said Abdullah Al Zaabi, an Emirati at the fish market.

Last week, hammour was fetching Dh60 a kilogram at the market, a hefty increase from Dh40 during the winter. Local sherry fish were being sold for Dh30 a kilo, double the usual asking price.

"During summer, I turn up here at the Mina fish market only once or twice a month due to the rising prices of fish," said Mr Al Zaabi. "I find fish in Sharjah and Dubai cheaper than Abu Dhabi."

Mohammed Al Muhairim, also Emirati, said: "I cannot afford hammour now. It's too expensive. During the summer, I would only come for fish once a month.

"I love fish, I can't resist, so I buy some cheaper fish. Don't ask about yesteryear, five to seven years ago, when fish was very cheap in Abu Dhabi in all seasons, but now … it's too much."

For fishermen, this season is a huge strain on their already tight finances.

"We go fishing two times in one month during the summer, when in winter it's at least four times," said Manhar Taya Bhai.

"The catch is very small, as they swim into deep waters or migrate to other places due to hot and humid weather conditions."

Mr Bhai has been forced to live on his boat this summer because he cannot afford to rent a room, a luxury he saves for the cooler months.

"Now we get fish of around Dh2,000 to Dh5,000 depending on catch," he said. "But in winter we generally get a catch worth between Dh15,000 and Dh25,000, depending on the condition of the nets and, of course, the weather."

Jayant Khapa, also a fisherman, said summer was always difficult and it can be hard to justify the expense of taking the boat out to sea, sometimes as far as 100 miles, because the catches were so small.

"During summer we don't sail too many times as it consumes fuel and expenses but we come back with almost nothing," he said.

He was hopeful things would bounce back by the middle of next month.

Despite the higher prices, times are not comfortable for Alavi Pubukkidi, a fish trader for 24 years, as there simply is not enough fish to go around.

"I sell hammour at Dh55 a kilo, king fish at Dh45 and sherry at Dh25 to Dh30 a kilo. We sold similar fish in March and April at Dh40, Dh30 and Dh15 to Dh20," he said.

He said his prices would drop again next month or at the start of November when the weather cooled.

Ali Mohammed Mansour Al Mansoury, the president of the Abu Dhabi Fishermen Cooperative Society, said it was an annual problem and things always returned to normal come the winter.

"During this season, the catch of fish goes down due to hot weather resulting in rocketing prices for fish," he said. "It happens every year during the summer. Fish are brought from Dubai and Oman too. But I hope prices will go down in the coming months when all the dhows come in with a good catch."

anwar@thenational.ae