Record decrease in dugong mortality rates

By Eudore R. Chand

ABU DHABI 8 April 2020: The mortality rate of dugongs in the fishing waters of Abu Dhabi has decreased significantly, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), has observed.

A total of ten deaths were recorded during peak season in 2019-2020, compared to 23 deaths in previous seasons, data from EAD showed. Seven dugongs died from drowning, while the causes of the other three cases have not been identified, the Environment Agency said on Tuesday.

The decrease in the number of deaths is a result of the enforcement of the Ministerial Resolution regulating surface fishing nets in Abu Dhabi, where the act of surface fishing via encircling nets in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi was prohibited, said Wam.

“In the past season, recorded dugong deaths were the lowest for the past five years. We recorded only ten deaths in the 2019-2020 peak season, which lasts from October to the end of May. This shows the success of the resolution on the regulation of surface fishing via encircling nets,” Ahmed Al Hashmi, Acting Executive Director of EAD’s Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity, said.

He added, “It is also evidence of the fruitful collaboration with other relevant authorities to protect endangered marine species such as dugongs and sea turtles.

“The statistics show that the deaths of dugongs during peak seasons coincide with seasonal barber fishing – locally known as Hiyali. Peak seasons are where dugongs are close to coastal areas and islands.”

Al Hashmi indicated that EAD is currently reviewing the regulatory legislation that contributes to the sustainability of fish stocks and the protection of marine species and their natural habitats.

“Our inspection team worked closely with the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority to increase monitoring of the illegal use of fishnets in reserves and marine areas. We have also partnered with the relevant authorities to raise awareness about marine wildlife and environmental legislation,” he noted.

In December 2018, EAD in coordination with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment amended the provisions of the Ministerial Resolution regarding the regulation of surface fishing via encircling nets. The use of nets in the waters of Abu Dhabi from December 2018 was prohibited due to a noticeable increase in dugong deaths.