Regulations Imposed on Recreational Fishing in UAE
Regulations Imposed on Recreational Fishing in UAE
Federal authorities have started cracking down on illegal fishing by many residents, especially some expatriates, on rented leisure boats as it affects the livelihood of fishermen across the country.
A limit has been imposed on the amount of fish caught by sports and leisure fishing enthusiasts in the UAE, a top official said in an interview.
A new decree issued by the Federal Transport Authority — Land and Maritime (FTA), which came into effect on 8 December 2016, has imposed a new recreational fishing limit of 20kg per day, said Dr Abdullah Bin Mohammad Bel Haif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Chairman of the Federal Transport Authority — Land and Maritime.
“Most of the leisure boats are rented out by its owners or hotels to recreation fishing enthusiasts, especially expatriates.”
The minister said such boats fish in huge quantities without legal permits from the authorities and some of them even sell their catch to restaurants and in markets.
Catching all sharks and any other prohibited fish species is banned throughout the year, and fish caught by recreational anglers cannot be sold in fishing markets, he said.
The Federal Traffic Authority, under the Ministry of Infrastructure, is responsible for issuing licences to leisure boats, whereas licences for fishing boats is issued by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
The move comes in response to concerns raised by the UAE Fishermen Association regarding unfair competition in their commercial fishing industry, he said.
The new decree will protect the interests of commercial fishermen who solely depend on fishing for their livelihood.
“Each leisure boat can fish up to 20kg per day; however, the fish should be for their personal consumption and not to be sold in the market,” he explained.
“We are very keen on ensuring that leisure boats are only used for recreational purposes and not for fishing in unlimited quantities and selling them in the market, which creates unfair competition for Emirati fishermen who rely on fishing for their livelihood,” Al Nuaimi said.
“I am actually aware that some of these leisure boats fish in certain zones, looking for specific types of fish for restaurants; such arbitrary practices are illegal and should be eliminated to preserve fishery and control random fishing in the sea [to catch fish] in unlimited numbers and species.”
Leisure-fishing vessels should not exceed 12 metres in length and should not weigh more than 10 gross tonnage (GT), with maximum 1,400hp.
The FTA is working on creating and developing a database with information on leisure boats.
“It is very essential [for leisure boats] to have records of these recreation vessels, types, numbers, locations and registry, [which will help] to identify them. We should also maintain security and safety and locate where the vessels are sailing to avoid illegal activity and smuggling,” he pointed out.
The decree deals with registering, licensing and use of all recreation vessels in the UAE, in cooperation with the designated federal and local authorities.
Al Nuaimi pointed out that current leisure boat owners have a grace period of six months from the date of issue of the decree to adjust their status and comply with the regulations.
“We want to give people time to meet the registration and licensing requirements rather than impose penalties right away. However, after six months, initial warnings will be issued and licences confiscated for violating the decree. This will be followed by imposing a total ban if leisure boat users fail to adhere to the regulations and laws. Leisure boat drivers must also attain a driver’s licence issued from the FTA.”
Leisure boat licences are valid for one year and renewed upon expiry.
Leisure boat owners can transfer boat ownership to others, while complying with the necessary terms and conditions.
He added that “recreation boat owners must register at Coast Guard check points upon entry and exit of the vessel and sailing should be within the regional waters of the UAE. Leisure boat owners must be on board the vessel while operating. However, this excludes first and second degree relatives, and special permits provided by the FTA.”
Domestic workers under another party’s sponsorship are not allowed to work on board the vessel.
Al Nuaimi explained that leisure boats must be fully equipped with the necessary tools and devices. “Leisure boats must install communication tools, transponders and tracking devices on board, weighing less than 300 tonnes, along with life-saving appliances and firefighting equipment,” he said.
“Water vessels with external engines must be compatible with UAE standards, however, modifications to the water vessel itself are banned, including the external fish storage boxes.”
Boat number plates issued by security authorities must be fixed on water vessels.
Leisure boat users are banned from fishing, or diving, close to military facilities and palaces.
Passengers on board the vessel should carry identity documents and should not exceed the permitted capacity, the minister said.