Monday, October 24, 2011


While on the subject of food and the environment for my last two posts, and as part of the research and reading, I came across an interesting book to help protect the future of UAE fisheries.

The book is produced by the Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF) at their Choose Wisely site. “Sustainable Fish Recipes” includes 20 recipes by volunteers to help cook with sustainable choices of fish.

EWS is a national environmental NGO associated with the WWF, one of the largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. They work with people and institutions in the UAE and the region to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable living through education and conservation initiatives, among them Choose Wisely.

I don’t eat a lot of fish, except when I go to Bu Qtair, my favorite fish restaurant in Dubai. Although when growing up, my dad Esa insisted we have fresh fish every Saturday, on market day. And we HAD to eat it! When my mom Vicky was away, I had to clean it! Enough said…

Nevertheless, there is a problem of overfishing, or catching more fish than the oceans can sustain.

The Emirates have a high demand for fish: 66% of residents eat fish at least once a week. Choose Wisely says studies show the overall number of commercial fish in the country has declined by 80% in the last 30 years and many species are being taken out well beyond sustainable levels.

Choose Wisely is the consumer awareness campaign of the Sustainable Fisheries Project launched in April 2010 to raise awareness of the heavy exploitation of UAE fish resources and encourage consumer action to curb the demand on overfished species.

They classified fish using a traffic light rating system of red, orange and green. With this rating system, EWS-WWF developed an easy-to-use consumer guide focusing on the most popular local species found fresh in markets and stores across the Emirates, for which stock assessments were carried out by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD).

In the UAE, 60% of the total catch is made up of species fished beyond sustainable levels. Eight of the most valuable commercial fish are being overexploited, including Hamour, Shaari, Farsh and Kanaad and others shown in the red section of the UAE fish consumer guide. Hamour, or Orange-spotted Grouper, is fished out at over seven times the sustainable level and is the most overfished species in the UAE, Choose Wisely says.

The book's cover
The 20 “Sustainable Fish Recipes,” which you can download here, are easy to follow in either English or Arabic. They include the name of fish to cross-reference with the guide and a picture of the fish to easily identify it when shopping. They all look delicious, among them the Roasted Faskar with Rosemary Potatoes by Irini Savva; Tamil Nadu Fish Curry with Ebsimi by Edna Joseph; the famous Lebanese Samkeh Harra (fish tagine) using Shaari Eshkeli by Rana Bayat; Fish Cakes by Jenny Hill with Shaari Eshkeli and many others.

Worldwide, as well as in the Emirates, too many fish are being taken out too soon, leaving them little opportunity to reproduce. Unless a more cautious approach to fisheries management is adopted, studies predict a collapse of all species fished out for food by 2048.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says 80% of the world's main fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. 

An environmentally sustainable fishery is one in which species are not depleted. This is done by monitoring fishing activities and ensuring the methods used to catch the fish do not destroy marine habitats or catch non-target species that are then discarded.

The easy-to-use EWS-WWF consumer guide
Commercial fishing in the UAE is carried out using a variety of traditional fishing equipment and technologies. Multi-gear artisanal fisheries catch over 100 species of fish from more than 35 families. The "gargoor," a dome-shaped wire trap, is by far the most important type of traditional fishing gear. In 2009 alone, these traps caught 736 tons of Hamour and 346 tons of Shaari in Abu Dhabi, making up 43.2% of the total fish catch in the emirate.

It’s perhaps a good idea to print the guide and keep it handy when buying fish. Maybe we can help -- one fish at a time!

Do you have any recipes, using the sustainable fish in the guide? Please share them if you do.

Related posts:
Food for thought – October 16, 2011