Celebrate the UAE’s waters, watch turtles nesting on our shores and find out what you can do to help conserve the Gulf in time for international World Oceans Day this June.
Tuna steak served medium-rare on a bed of pak choi; grilled lemon sole freshly filleted; salmon sashimi dipped into wasabi-infused soy sauce; cod battered and served with chunky chips and mushy peas... Shame, isn’t it, that we’ve only got about 35 years left to enjoy these dishes, after studies predicted that by 2048 ocean species fished for food will have collapsed entirely. That’s it; gone; khalas; never to return. You’ll still have the chips and mushy peas though, but unfortunately your kids will have to enjoy them sans fruit de mer.
The statistics are sobering. A recent fish stock assessment study carried out by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) shows a severe decline in important UAE commercial fish stocks in the past 30 years, with some species – including hammour, kingfish and goldlined seabream – currently fished at more than seven times the sustainable level.
That’s why during World Oceans Day on Saturday June 8 it would be rather lovely if you looked out over the Gulf from the comfort of your beach towel and had a little think about what you personally can do to help protect that big blue thing you pose hard beside every weekend.
‘Global pollution and over-consumption of fish have resulted in drastically diminishing population of the majority of species,’ explains Lisa Perry, Programmes Director at Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the WWF. ‘Too many fish are being removed too early in their life cycle, reducing their potential to produce the next generation and consequently future stocks. Adding to the impact of overfishing are other threats like habitat loss, increased consumer demand and catch of non-intended species.’
Now in its 11th unofficial and 5th official year since the day was proposed by Canada at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio – it was officially recognised by the United Nations in 2008 – World Oceans Day is a chance to remember exactly what the ocean does for us. ‘People celebrate World Oceans Day for what it provides humans and what it represents; the most precious resource – water,’ says Lisa. ‘It’s also an opportunity for us to celebrate marine life and appreciate its own intrinsic value through our conservation work.’
And if you’re lucky enough, you could see firsthand exactly why doing something to help the ocean’s creatures thrive is so vital, as the months between April and July are when adult female turtles lay their eggs on beaches in the UAE, increasing your chances of seeing them on the shores and in shallow waters. Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island in particular has just witnessed the first nesting mothers return to the beach. ‘If you are at the beach, make sure to keep your distance if you see any turtles nesting,’ says Marina Antonopoulou, manager of the Conservation project which tags and tracks the movements of green and hawksbill turtles in the UAE, Qatar and Oman. ‘Turtles tend to be sensitive to light or noise disturbances. [And] it’s important not to leave litter on the beach or throw it overboard.’
Whether its the population of fish or turtles in the region’s waters that are being debated, talk is not enough. Action is needed – and while the efforts of one individual might not make a huge difference, those of a thousand individuals will. Do your bit now, even if just by taking responsibility and considering your dining choices more carefully – soon it will be too late.
To learn more, visit uae.panda.org.
How you can help now
Become a picky eater
Before heading out to dinner at your favourite seafood restaurant or hitting up the fish section of your local supermarket, visit choosewisely.ae for a list of the species which are currently at dangerously low stock levels. In the ‘How can I help?’ section, you’ll find species divided up into green, orange and red sections to show which species you can order without doing more damage.
Adopt A Turtle
With three out of seven turtle species critically endangered, adopt a turtle of your own and see your money go towards conservation projects in the region. Packs are available to buy online or at stores across Dubai. Plus, you get a cuddly turtle called Nadia.
Dhs200 per adoption pack, www.gulfturtles.com/adopt-turtle
Make a family day out of it
Atlantis The Palm is getting involved with World Oceans Day by hosting family orientated activities including educational talks, kids’ crafts, dive shows, fish feedings and more at the Lost Chambers on Friday June 7. Dhs75 per adult, with one child free (04 426 0000). www.worldoceansday.org/events