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Bahrain shrimp stocks fall 75pc in July

Manama, August 4, 2013

Bahrain's shrimp population has dropped by 75 per cent because of illegal fishing, said a top official, adding that more than 200 local dhows have been caught flouting the four-month shrimping ban.

They have been fined up to BD300 ($793) and had their licences temporarily suspended, Fishermen's Protection Society president Jassim Al Jeran was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

Al Jeran said the drastic drop and spike in prices were direct results of overfishing during the ban period, which coincides with the breeding season of shrimps.

He said the society has been flooded with complaints from fishermen about the depleting stock.

"Shrimp populations are only 25 per cent of what they were compared with last year," said Al Jeran.

"So when legal shrimpers came back this year, the population was diminished and many of them are not shrimping as frequently because it is just not worth it.

"There are 400 fishermen, 270 dhows and 100 boats registered to catch shrimp. They are bringing in between 200 and 300 large containers daily. The quantity is enough currently, but prices have increased from BD1.5 to BD2 per kilo. It is still unknown how it will affect the future supply of shrimp in the local market."

Last year, more than 150 dhows were caught breaking the law during off-season, which Mr Al Jeran said was in place to protect the country's stock.

"No less than 200 vessels were caught during the ban this year," he said. "They used tactics such as switching off their lights and parking their vessels closer to the shore lines. Those who did shrimp during the ban did so in bulk, which has drastically affected the population.”

"Those who got caught would have to pay fines ranging from BD150 to BD300 and those who cannot afford to pay the fine will have their fishing licences suspended for a week or two,” he added.

Al Jeran said 15 dhows were also caught for fishing in restricted areas since the ban ended, compared to 50 vessels violating the law throughout last year.

"Fifteen vessels were also caught in two weeks. They were fined between BD150 and BD300, and fishermen who could not afford to pay had their licenses temporarily suspended," he said.

"There are zones that fishermen are allowed to shrimp in and almost all those who violated the rule have been found in the North and North-East of Manama's coast (restricted zone)."

Al Jeran said territorial waters near Sitra and Manama have different fishing zones, some of which are restricted.

However, fishermen claim they are confused with the restricted areas in Manama because they have not been clearly marked.

"Those who have been caught have said that they were unaware of the new zones for Manama," he added.

"Most fisherman have still not been supplied the maps or co-ordinates marking the new zones of Manama and many don't have GPS systems either. Most of those who were caught said they didn't know they were shrimping in banned areas."

Al Jeran earlier called for tougher measures to be introduced for fishermen caught flouting the ban.

He said dhows should be confiscated instead of the existing fines for violators, which have failed to provide proper deterrent.

The proposal has been raised with senior officials at the Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Ministry in hopes of turning it into a law.

Al Jeran also requested authorities to increase sea patrols and ban the use of boats with bigger engines during the off-season as they have repeatedly been able to escape.

He also urged inspectors to raid known "black markets" that regularly pop up across Bahrain's five governorates during the shrimping ban. – TradeArabia News Service




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