|22 January, 2020

New aqua farming company planned in Bahrain

The aim was to provide alternatives to conventional fishing practices

Plans are in the works to form a new government-owned company to promote aqua-farming, as part of efforts to replenish the country’s fish stocks.

This was revealed during Parliament’s weekly session yesterday, where Agriculture and Marine Resources Under-Secretary Dr Nabeel Abu Al Fateh said the aim was to provide alternatives to conventional fishing practices.

It comes as a nationwide ban on trawling was introduced in November 2018, after it emerged the country’s fish stocks had dropped by 90 per cent since 2004.

However, it was revealed yesterday that the population of certain species of fish has increased by 18pc as a result of the ban.

“We have to allow the sea to recover and stocks to replenish to return it back to its former state,” said Dr Abu Al Fateh.

“This will only happen with the (continuation of the) ban on trawling which has so far allowed an increase of 18pc in the population of fish with fins.

“The practice of trawling resulted in 30pc of shrimp being caught while 70pc were other creatures and even parts of the seabed.

“There also has to be shift from conventional fishing practices with a possible guarantee to fishermen in the future.

“For that we are working to form a new government company, in which we will be the majority shareholders and fishermen as our partners with shares.”

He said work on the new company was being co-ordinated between Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf, Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, and other government bodies.

He was speaking during an open debate in which MPs sought clarification on the government’s policies governing the fishing and marine resources sectors.

MPs also discussed proposed compensation for fishermen affected by the trawling ban.

During the session, video footage was screened by MP Khaled Bu Onk that showed expat fishermen catching shrimp illegally despite the ban.

However, Mr Khalaf, who was present for the open debate, said efforts were being stepped up to increase monitoring at sea and on land.

“Last year alone, the Coastguard caught 11 tonnes of shrimp and 297 violators,” said the minister.

“We are also working to increase our monitoring at sea and on land by deploying more marine inspectors and monitoring boats.”

Mr Khalaf also revealed that a number of fishermen have already received compensation for losses incurred as a result of the trawling ban.

“We have 16 shrimpers who were compensated a combined BD332,000 – with some receiving up to BD32,000 – and four are in the process of receiving BD112,000,” he added.

“While 42 others are waiting for consent from concerned authorities to completely sell their assets.”

During debate, MPs also discussed reclamation policies that have a negative impact on marine environment, but the minister insisted all such projects follow strict regulations.

“Trawling has a bigger devastating impact on the environment and this is why it has been banned in the GCC,” said Mr Khalaf.

All recommendations presented during the debate by MPs will be compiled and referred to the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, during yesterday’s session MPs insisted on their version of an amendment to the 2002 Fishing Organisation, Catching and Protection Law.

This gives fishermen a three-year licence rather than one-year and allows them to keep paying the existing amount.

It will be referred back to the Shura Council and if rejected then a joint vote is required at a National Assembly session, which has never happened since 2002.

MPs also postponed a vote for two weeks on other amendments to the same law that would have allowed each fisherman a maximum of three fishing licences.

Under the amendments, if a fisherman commits severe violations then punishments would be between a month and six months in jail and fines between BD1,000 and BD5,000, while minor violations will carry up to a month in jail and fines between BD300 and BD1,000.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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