Stormy waters

With World Ocean Day on June 8, we see how acid, over-fishing and five-star hotels have hurt Dubai's sea

It’s World Ocean Day on June 8. And while it’s a date to celebrate the value of the sea, it also seems like a good time to face up to the problems we’ve caused and have a think about how we can make things better. Read on and you’ll agree.

On acid

The oceans are becoming more acidic thanks to that old chestnut, excessive carbon dioxide emissions. So dire are the levels of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere that it’s changing the chemistry of the ocean, and the increased acidity is having ‘a major adverse effect on corals and other marine life’, according to the boffs at international environmental agency Oceana.

The sea around the UAE is becoming increasingly acidic, damaging coral in particular. This is a worry, because the loss of coral species has a negative impact on the ocean, disrupting ecosystems and even making things difficult for ocean-dependent economies, such as fishing (local economies near major coral reefs tend to benefit from a wealth of fish and octopus as a food source). The acidity also poses a significant threat to creatures such as clams, marine plankton and oysters (bad news for all those fancy pants Dubai restaurants, then).

Oceana tells Time Out: ‘The only way to stop ocean acidification is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans.’ And the only way to do this is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) being released into the atmosphere.

Dubai is a considerable offender when it comes to CO2 emissions. UAE hotels alone produce double the CO2 emissions of their European counterparts, as a study by Dubai-based facilities management company Farnek Avireal discovered last year. A five-star hotel in Dubai produces 6,500 tonnes of CO2 annually, whereas a similar hotel in Europe produces only 3,000 tonnes a year. And you know how many five-star hotels there are in Dubai.

However, a target of 20 per cent reduction in CO2 from hotels has been set by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), which a number of Dubai’s leading hotels have committed to meet, including Emirates Towers, Madinat Jumeirah, Mövenpick and The One&Only Royal Mirage. Fingers crossed that will be enough.

Dubai’s desalination plants are also contributing to the mass amounts of CO2 being belched into the air. Because there is little surface or underground water available in the UAE, salt water has to be turned into drinking water via the process of desalination. But the process releases large amounts of CO2, and the Middle East is said to account for 75 per cent of the world’s water desalination.


Fewer fish

Over-fishing is a huge concern around the world right now. Scary statistics include the fact that, since the ’50s, 90 per cent of the world’s big fish (marlin, tuna, swordfish, sharks) have disappeared. And Oceana tells us: ‘If fisherman worldwide continue to catch seafood at the current rate, all of the commercial fisheries of the world would collapse by the middle of this century.’

Over-fishing can also upset entire marine ecosystems. And, on a more selfish note, one billion people the world over rely on seafood as either their main or sole source of protein. The menu at your favourite seafood restaurant will start looking pretty boring if over-fishing continues.

You might think there’s not a lot you can do about this, as rules on fishing depend on national governmental policies. But even if you’re not the lobbying type, you can help out by doing something as simple as only eating sustainably caught seafood. It really could make all the difference.

Signatures restaurant at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa sells sustainable seafood, and the resort’s tranquil surroundings, with peacocks roaming the lawns and birdsong filling the air, ensure it’s doubly worth the trip. When buying in the supermarket, look out for special terms like ‘line caught’, ‘diver caught’, ‘sustainably caught’ or ‘sustainably harvested’.


How to help

• Take a moment on June 5 to do something for our oceans. CO2 from burning fossil fuels is making the sea more acidic, so why not take the bus instead of a taxi (it only costs Dhs2, after all), turn off the TV when you’re not really watching it (do you really need Tyra Banks on while you cook?) and start using low-energy light bulbs.

• Buy La Mer’s limited edition World Ocean Day face cream – 100 per cent of the net proceeds go to Oceana. Save the world and have nice skin. You can pick it up at Harvey Nichols, Paris Gallery or Salam in Wafi City.

• Much of the plastic and debris in the ocean starts out as beach litter, so why not hit the sand and give it a clean-up? Go on, do your bit for the fishes and feel noble.

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