How Abu Dhabi champions sustainable fishing

Abu Dhabi is bringing back local fish species that were once on the brink of extinction, supporting sustainable fishing practices that also help local people

A few years ago, fish in the waters around the United Arab Emirates were under threat. Overzealous fishing practices had completely wiped out some species, leaving others critically endangered.

There have been huge declines in fish populations of around 200 species, with local species such as hammur, sherry and farsh being fished at between three and five times sustainable limits. At one point, there were only 10% local fish compared to 1978 levels, when the sea was relatively full of them.

The discovery came as a shock – and it wasn’t just the lack of fish that was detrimental. THE UAE has a strong fishing heritage, with local fishermen once relying on fishing as their main source of income.

The UAE acted quickly. They have banned the most harmful fishing nets, set up marine reserves and implemented bans on fishing in certain seasons. They have also employed fisheries experts to set up a national research program of scientific studies for sustainable fisheries that will continue until 2030, with the ambitious goal of recovering 70% of the UAE’s fish stock. here that year.

The idea is that by having a better understanding of the local fisheries ecosystem, they will be better equipped to develop research and aquaculture programs to support the fish. By doing so, fishing pressure would be reduced and fish stocks would recover.

Today, recent reports show that the number of sustainably caught fish in Abu Dhabi waters is on the rise. This is good news, and means that at least 70% of the emirate’s fish stocks could recover by 2030 if current sustainable fishing practices and conservation efforts continue.

“Based on detailed assessments and scientific studies of fisheries resources conducted by us at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD)…a system of globally acceptable methods of managing fish stocks has been created and implemented in collaboration with our partners,” says His Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD.

“These efforts have resulted in the establishment of several marine reserves, the introduction and implementation of a licensing system for commercial and recreational fishing, and the regulation of the use of fishing gear. . This is in addition to implementing a seasonal ban to protect fish during their breeding seasons and setting a minimum size of fish that can be caught for some major species, as well as banning unsustainable fishing methods.

And the good news for tourists and travel agents is that you can see Abu Dhabi’s sustainable fishing practices in action and even invest in them while on vacation, if you visit the right restaurants and businesses.

Where to find sustainable fish in Abu Dhabi

(c) Rizka Fahima

Catch Abu Dhabi $$$

St Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Riviera Beach Club, Corniche Road, Al Khubeirah, Opposite Nation Towers, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

This atmospheric fine dining restaurant sets itself apart from restaurants in Abu Dhabi with its sleek, stylish design and breezy beach club atmosphere. There’s a nautical theme throughout, with large white wicker chairs and impressive water views.

The menu has been well thought out, which is rich in seafood and features sustainable local fish sourced from all over the Emirates. The cuisine is predominantly Japanese, with a creative twist – think crab burgers with avocado and banana chips, or grilled Spanish octopus topped with piquillo puree. But it’s the sushi platters that really draw the crowds. Forget the standard salmon nigiri in favor of more inventive pairings, like coconut shrimp rolls with oyster mushrooms and lime, or the “torch dynamite roll” with salmon, tuna and orange tobiko (fish eggs).

Fish market $$

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Street InterContinental, Abu Dhabi 4171 United Arab Emirates

If you prefer casual dining, head to the fish market at the InterContinental. Sure, it’s inside a five-star hotel, but walk past the marble check-in area and you’ll find yourself in a veritable fish market. Here, local fish, including hammour and sherry, are piled high on beds of ice, alongside prawns, red mullet, sea bass and just about every other type of seafood imaginable.

The culinary ethic is simple: walk around and select the fish you want, then bring it to the cooking station and tell the chef how you’d like it cooked. We opted for the seafood tom yum soup, prawn linguine and grilled hammour with zataar and basil. Each type of fish has its origins labeled on a chalkboard, which means you can opt to choose local, sustainable seafood for your meal.

Al Shader $

Abu Dhabi Port Street Mina Fish Market, Al Mina, Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates

This casual Egyptian-style seafood steakhouse is located in the Abu Dhabi Fish Market. It’s complete with all the bustle you imagine, with local fishermen depositing their morning catch in huge nets, fish of all colors and sizes.

The decor here is simple but elegant, with light wood tables and low fishnets draped over blue and white walls.

Choose your fish from the paper menu – we would opt for locally sourced and sustainably sourced sherry and hammour (sold by the kilo). Dishes are prepared according to traditional Egyptian cooking styles, mainly barbecued with local herbs and spices. You can ask the chef to cook it according to your preferences, but we recommend leaving it to the experts – they won’t let you down.

The hummus salad makes a great starter, and the grilled sea bass and lobster are some of the best we’ve had. Starters and sides are Middle Eastern, from fattoush to tabbouleh, to pickled tomatoes and the more unusual (but still delicious) caviar salad.

Private Fishing Adventures, ST Marine Boat Charters

Marina Al Bateen Resort

ST Marine’s private fishing adventure boat tours are an institution in Abu Dhabi. Join Captain John as he takes you on the 31-foot catamaran equipped with elaborate fish-finding devices. Trips last around four hours and include spot fishing (where you can catch fish including nasser, sea bream and catfish) and sea trolling (a type of fishing that attracts bigger fish). fish, including hammur, queen and barracuda). Sustainability is at the forefront, with all fish being returned to the water.

For something different, they also organize island hopping adventures and private cruises.

Abu Dhabi Maritime Heritage Festival

Corniche Abu Dhabi

Every March, the Abu Dhabi Maritime Heritage Festival moves to Al Bahar on the city’s corniche, with a 10-day program of workshops, performances, craft demonstrations and heritage trails , all focused on the maritime heritage of the emirate. Stop for sailing excursions and boat building workshops, as well as lectures on sustainable fishing and workshops on pearl diving.

There is a traditional souk with street food stalls preparing local delicacies, including live cooking shows and sustainably caught seafood, as well as lectures to raise awareness of local maritime practices and celebrate the impressive coastal history of the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

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