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Fisheries 'facing oblivion'

By Mohammed Al A'Ali

Gulf Daily News

20th November 2004

Bahrain's fisheries could be wiped out in 15 years, as reclamation destroys the area's coral reefs, says an environmentalist. One-third of the country's marine resources have been destroyed over the past 20 years by reclamation and development projects, says Public Commission for Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife fisheries director Jassim Al Qaseer.

The disaster will happen even sooner if the Fasht Al Adhm island housing project goes ahead, near Sitra, he said.

"Bahrain's biggest coral reef is found near this island and any reclamation project would certainly affect fishes breeding in the area," said Mr Al Qaseer.

"Many fishermen also depend on the area for fishing and if it gets destroyed then they will lose their source of income, something which will certainly affect their families and eventually Bahrain's economy."

The commission wants a halt to random reclamation and better protection for coral reefs and other fishing areas, he said.

Mr Al Qaseer said that agriculture and groundwater had been lost due to development projects carried out without proper study into their potential impact.

"Can anyone imagine that Bahrain has started importing trees and water from abroad?" he asked.

"The same is also happening with coral reefs, as we have already bought artificial ones which will be planted in two locations in the north of Bahrain and one near Muharraq island.

"Durrat Al Bahrain island officials have already planted an artificial coral reef, while Amwaj Islands have also planted one, but the directorate is asking for more."

Mr Al Qaseer said that Bahrain was not like south Asian countries, where coral reefs grow easily.

"Bahrain is one of the hottest places in the world, where salinity reaches around 47 per cent in waters off its eastern coast," he said.

"Because Bahrain sees less rain than other countries, temperature and water salinity are further increasing, causing more bleaching to the coral reefs."

Mr Al Qaseer said that the directorate was trying its best to protect the remaining coral reefs from destruction, whether from pollution, sedimentation or from abuse by fishermen.

"Popular fish like Safi, Hamour, Rabeeb and Ganam are being caught from around Fasht Al Adhm and its demise means the end of our fisheries resources," he said.

The area is vital to fishermen from Sitra, Nuwaidrat, Ma'meer, Askar, Jaw and Al Dour, said Mr Al Qaseer.

"Representatives from the directorate should be present with contractors, whenever reclamation projects are carried out to ensure coral reefs aren't affected," he said.

"When reclaiming land from the sea, contractors should be obliged to use proper materials, instead of refuse."

Mr Al Qaseer hopes that a part of Fasht Al Adhm will be named as a protected zone.

"If this zone gets touched, then Bahrain will be saying goodbye to its marine resources," he said.