A healthy ocean depends on coral reefs. If our reefs continue to decline not only would the population of fish decline, but some species will disappear for good.
Coral reefs offer shoreline protection and maintain water quality. To lose such a crucial part of the ocean will have rippling environmental, social and economic impacts on Bahrain,” AEPCO’s President Shaikha Marwa Bint Abdulrahman Al Khalifa told Gulf Insider.
She added that there are four main factors that are threatening Bahrain’s marine wealth- fishermen activities and their waste, pollution, sand extraction and human recreational activities.
‘’Overfishing has resulted in a drastic reduction in fish populations, particularly shrimp and fish breeds that are solely found in Bahrain. Sand extractions are continuously destroying fisheries, habitats, corals, and killing marine organisms. With regard to pollution, if you visit any seashore in Bahrain, you will see the appalling state of rubbish that begins at the shore and continues deep into the sea,” said Shaikha Marwa.
Of the four main causes, fishermen have attributed the most to the deterioration of Bahrain’s marine life. Overfishing has led to the disappearance of some fish breeds as well as a 75% drop in the population of shrimp.
“Despite the existence of a government resolution to temporarily halt the issuing of fishing licenses for Bahrainis and fishermen work permits for non-Bahrainis, the numbers of fishermen is increasing,” said Bahraini Fisherman and Marine Environment Protection Activist on Social Media, Hassan Al Burhami.
“Large numbers of juvenile fish are often scooped up in the nets. These fish are often disposed instead of being returned to sea. Even though trawl nets are illegal, they are still used as many fishermen, particularly unlicensed ones, disregard the law”, said Shaikha Marwa.
Over the past few years, a rise in marine creature deaths, such as whales, dolphins and sea turtles has been witnessed. The most recent incident involved a dead Baleen whale, the largest species in the Arabian Gulf, spotted off the northwest coast of Bahrain. Images of the 16-meter creature sparked outrage among animal lovers and activities who blamed fishermen for their irresponsibility and harmful fishing methods.
Mohammed Falamarzi, a Bahraini Fisherman told Gulf Insider; “There are several factors that are affecting the marine environment. This includes the illegal fishing methods, the reclamation of the sea and the rising temperatures.
As fishermen, our source of income is being affected as there are fewer quantities of fish in the sea now. This results in the rise of prices and less sales. We must not disregard the climate change and the ever-increasing temperatures; which cause the death of many sea creatures. In my opinion, the solution comes from within. It is our sea and everyone should bear the responsibility of protecting it”.
August of this year has been plagued with 12 sea turtles deaths, a dead dolphin pup, a dead whale and masses of dead fish.
Marine experts analyse the cause of death for some turtles and concluded that they died as a result of ingesting fishing lines, being wrapped around their flippers, being caught in fishing nets and boating accidents. Similarly, the dead dolphin pup was found with a fishnet cork in its mouth. “The status of Bahrain’s marine life is critical and in great danger. It is no longer as rich as it once was,” said Shaikha Marwa.
Dugongs are found in Bahrain’s seas and there is considerable evidence suggesting that Hawar Island is an important nursery area. Bahrain’s seas support the largest aggregation of Dugongs outside Australia. However, a 2017 study has shown that the Dugong population has fallen by 25% since 1950.
Shaikha Marwa revealed that “Dugongs are already listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and could possibly face extinction in the near future.”
“With the current rate of overfishing, pollution, sand extraction and fishing waste, marine creatures are threatened every day. If these activities continue, fish populations will further be affected and we will have to build fish farms.
This will directly affect Bahrain’s population as they will be consuming fish that have been bred in unnatural environments,” said Shaikha Marwa.
The environmental loss will carry a heavy economic impact as fishing industries collapse. Fisheries of Bahrain are the most vulnerable as the Kingdom has a comparatively larger economic dependence on fisheries.
““We have land reclamation projects which has naturally pushed many marine creature populations further out in our seas and even out of our waters. This is because land reclamation disrupts the food chain of many species, particularly reef organisms when reefs are destroyed and shorelines are hardened. Water quality is also severely affected, making the water more acidic, which means many organisms are unable to survive in it,” said Shaikha Marwa.
“It’s always harder to bring back species once they are in decline and their habitats are destroyed but if we do not at least try, we will never know.
It’s always important to remember that protecting the environment is always cheaper and easier than fixing the damage we have caused to it,” she added.