As Qatar continues to grapple with dwindling fish stocks, government officials and at least one local hotel are increasing efforts to protect local aquatic species.
Last week, the Cabinet approved a draft decision limiting fish exports. It banned fish exports by sea and said fish that are in “surplus of the local market needs” may be exported by land only under certain conditions.
Some businesses are also doing their part.
Late last year for example, the Mövenpick Hotel West Bay removed hammour from its menu.
In a statement, general manager Ghada Sadek called it “a necessary action” for the hotel:
“Mövenpick Hotel West Bay Doha has taken this initiative to ensure that it operates responsibly and that it does not use any species that are on the endangered list,” she said.
The hotel was previously purchasing between 350 and 400kgs of the fish a month.
Sadek added that most guests have reacted positively to the change and that there have been no major complaints since hammour was removed from the hotel’s menus.
Several hotels and restaurants in the UAE took similar steps in 2013, although the fish is still found on many menus across the country.
“Hammour” actually refers to several fish species, but is most commonly used to describe the orange-spotted grouper.
In 2004, overfishing around the world led the International Union for Conservation of Nature to categorize it as “near threatened” – two steps below “endangered” and five levels below the most serious classification, “extinct.”
Officials in the region have documented dramatic declines of fish stocks. In late 2014, the UAE’s environment minister said the number of fish in the Gulf dropped 88 percent between 1975 and 2011, according to the National.
In Qatar, that’s led to the government introducing a variety of measures aimed at reducing the number of fish caught each year.
- Forcing Qataris to be physically present on their fishing boats – prompting an 80 percent drop in the number of boats going out to sea to trawl in 2012;
- A freeze on new licenses, and
- Restrictions on the types of permitted nets and a ban on catching certain species during their migratory period.
It’s not clear how large of an impact the Cabinet’s new proposed export restrictions will have on the local fishing industry.
During the final nine months of 2015, nearly 1,227 metric tonnes – valued at QR3.31 million – of fish were exported from Qatar, according to government economic statistics.
Would you be willing to eat less hammour to help boost Qatar’s fish stocks? Thoughts?