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Over-fishing threatens Arabian Gulf species
BY MARIECAR JARA-PUYOD January 21, 2019
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ABU DHABI: Four hundred and seventy-one marine bony fish species in the Arabian Gulf are in danger due to over-fishing, climate change and coastal development, according to a 2013-2017 joint research study conducted by experts and released for media, on Sunday.

Of the 471, excluding sharks and rays, “the endangered species are mainly coral-dependent species and are outside of these habitats. Given the decline in these habitats in recent years, these species are highly vulnerable to further environmental change,” research study co-author and New York University-Abu Dhabi (NYU-Abu Dhabi) Biology Associate Professor John Burt, stated in an e-mail interview.

Of the 471, 47 per cent or 221 of the species assessed have been “pressured by fisheries or harvesting,” more known as over-fishing while 32 per cent or 151 have been affected to a loss of habitat.

“In particular, loss of coral reef habitat is a result of climate change and coastal development, as coral reefs are a major foraging and/or nursery area for many fish species in the Gulf.”

Burt explained the research study was conducted by the NYU-Abu Dhabi along with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global organisation into the sustainability of natural resources, and other entities, as “fish communities are one of the most economically and ecologically important groups in the Gulf region, and there has been wide recognition that they have come under increasing pressure in recent decades both within government agencies and in research circles.”

He added, “This is to provide an up-to-date assessment of the status of all known fish species in the region so that regional marine managers could target their conservation efforts towards the most vulnerable species.”

On the threats, Burt commented, “Over-fishing reduces populations in some cases to the point where there is insufficient brood stock.”

To illustrate, he cited the well-known reduction of cod stocks on the Grand Banks in North America.

In order to solve this problem, Burt stated, “There is a strong need for concerted management efforts among the Gulf nations. Many of the threats that face fish populations are trans-national in nature and most fish stocks are shared among multiple nations.”

The research is required for the “necessary coordinated activities to address the decline of fish species.”

The countries surrounding the Arabian Gulf includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

The research study was published in the monthly peer-reviewed “Biological Conservation” by Elsevier.
 

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