Opening this week, the Fujairah Classic is the country’s largest fishing competition yet. Chris Lord finds out more
The team behind the Sinbad Classic, the annual big game fishing competition that takes over Muscat every March, have had their sights set on the UAE’s east coast for a while. The Sinbad event draws in fisherfolk from around the world, many in search of Oman’s ubiquitous yellowfin tuna and prized sailfish. There’s no doubt that it’s become one of the country’s most celebrated sporting events, and now they’re looking to bring that model to Fujairah.
What gives the Oman event its oomph, however, is its focus on what the team calls ‘sustainability through sport’. Each year, the Sinbad aims to bring greater awareness to local commercial fisherman of how to manage fish stocks and ensure some longevity for the trade, as well as educate recreational fishing companies on the importance of good sport fishing practice. Bruce Fennessy of Intevents, the company behind the Sinbad Classic, will be bringing the same strict rules to the Fujairah event when it starts at the end of this week. ‘The minimum weight for any kept fish is 5kg, there are maximum catch limits for boats, and it’s strict catch and release on all billfish, like sailfish, of which there are quite a few off Fujairah’s coast.’
Fennessy explains that a big part of how the event can contribute to a culture of sustainability comes down to educating local sports fishing companies on how to ensure that their practice isn’t decimating the sea. ‘We’ve been doing a lot of work with Fujairah Marine club [where the tournament is held] and they’ll be acting on the tournament’s behalf in that sense. Whereas in Oman we can have direct influence, this is more of a starting point for where things can happen. But it’s about making sustainable sport fishing for the future. People around the gulf are quickly becoming aware of the value of recreational fishing.’ Yet the Fujairah event has, until very recently, remained fairly low key. Slowly, more and more sign-ups are coming in, but Fennessy sees that the preceding summer, with Ramadan and Eid afterwards, has meant there’s not been quite as many people around to sign up.
We spoke to one captain taking part, Wayne De Jager, owner of East Coast Fishing Charters, who will be joined on his boat by a group of Finns out for the prize at the Fujairah event. He remains confident that the event will be worth taking part in. ‘The fishing’s pretty good at the moment,’ says De Jager. ‘We’re getting a lot of Dorado, yellowfin tuna, kingfish and a couple of sailfish bouncing around. We haven’t really targeted the sailfish but we’ve seen them coming in and going back out in the morning – without a doubt they’re what people will be after in this event.’
De Jager is as keen as Fennessy to stress the importance of this event on raising sustainability concerns: ‘You’ve got to educate the locals first. Without them being educated to what it’s about you’re not going to achieve much. One can apply sustainability by having an event like this and making people aware of what’s going on with fishing in the rest of the world.’
Fennessy insists that there’s still plenty of time to sign up, with all those interested directed to fujairahclassic.com. Intevents are remaining schtum on what first prize for biggest catch will be, but this year’s Sinbad event saw the winner take away a four day trip to Cape Town. Tightlines, we say.
The Fujairah Classic is from October 15-17, focused around the Fujairah International Marine Club and Meridien Al Aqah. For information on how to register and get on a boat go to www.fujairahclassic.com.
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