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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Where do fish go when the UAE summer kicks in? 

Fishermen and a marine expert explain why fish catches are so depleted at this time of year.

UAE waters resemble a hot bath in the summer so it’s no wonder that local fish try to beat the heat in whatever way they can.

Fishermen and marine experts said that fish plunge into deeper water seeking cooler temperatures, which makes them harder to catch, while others just venture far out to sea, again creating problems for fishermen.

“Fishing conditions can be linked to the weather as fish choose to swim away into the deep, looking for cooler temperatures, and that requires us to go miles away from the shores looking for fish under the burning sun,” said Rashid Al Zaabi, a fisherman from Kalba.

“The weather affects both the fish and the fishermen and that’s what led to the hike in fish prices as the demand is higher than the available fish supplies, but this happens almost every summer and things should get better in August.”

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Mr Al Zaabi said many fishermen choose not to go fishing as the catch often does not cover the cost of the trip.

“Fishermen prefer to stay away from the sea during hot weather as we know the revenue will not cover the costs, as we pay for workers, tools and fuel,” he added.

Dr Saif Al Ghais, executive director of the environment protection and development authority in RAK, said fish departing for cooler climes is a common phenomenon.

“Bottom-dwelling fish in big sizes like hamour, shari and safi can’t adapt to higher temperatures and choose to move away and relocate to deeper waters, where temperatures become cooler,” he said.

“It’s normal during summer and definitely it’s not an easy task on fishermen as they need to make extra efforts to catch fish this time of the year.

“Water depth, current and other elements can also affect the water temperatures as it’s higher by 10°C in the Arabian Gulf and especially in the west compared to the east coast and Oman sea.”

The head of Dibba Fishermen Association said that only 55 out of their 300 members went out to sea in the past week.

“The weather affects the marine life as well as it affects us, so some fishermen seize the opportunity and send their workers on holiday to save money as they know that they won’t be able to catch good amounts of fish during the heat,” said Sulaiman Al Khuddam.

“Some of the fish prices have increased 20 to 30 per cent in Dibba fish market, such as hamour and kingfish, but there are many cheaper alternatives that customers should consider until the weather gets cooler sometime in August.”