A traditional fishing cage known to target hammour and other vulnerable species will be banned in Abu Dhabi in an attempt to save them from extinction.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment issued a resolution banning the use of gargoor cages, which are dome-shaped metal traps, following a survey that discovered a “significant decline” in Abu Dhabi waters of the population of two of the country’s most threatened species.

The Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey, conducted by the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi in partnership with the ministry, found both local favourite hammour and the farsh species have declined to just 10 percent of their adult stock size.

According to estimates, they are over-exploited by up to five times the sustainable limit, well below the 30 percent threshold that international standards prescribe as a minimum.

The ban, which comes into force on May 1, has specifically targeted gargoor nets because studies by EAD show the nets target major and highly-exploited species.

It excludes all gargoor nets used on boats registered with the ministry and approved by EAD for research and scientific study purposes.

Ahmed Al Hashmi, executive director for the terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said the type of cage being banned in Abu Dhabi is popular worldwide, although the materials used to construct them varies.

“Fishermen try to put feed or something to attract fish to go inside. There is a large opening door for them, but it gradually becomes smaller and the fish becomes trapped. It cannot get out again,” said Mr Al Hashmi.

Restrictions have previously been placed on gargoor cages, which are used to catch species close to the sea floor, although this is believed to be the first outright ban.

In 2014, fishermen were asked to choose between using nets or gargoor after the Ministry of Environment said it would issue licences for one or the other. And in 2013, EAD limited the number of traditional fishing cages to 125 a vessel.

In 2017, gargoor nets were responsible for catching more than 75 percent of the landing catch of those species, according to EAD.

“The volume of the landing from gargoor focuses on these three species, which are reduced by more than 90 percent comparing to the baseline in 1978,” said Mr Al Hashmi. (The National)