Deterioration of our marine resources [Archives:2005/899/Health]
BY DR. AKRAM AL-KERSHI
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL & EARTH SCIENCES
FACULTY OF SCIENCES
The marine ecosystem bordering Yemen extends for about 2200 km long and contains a large number of species of plants and animals, many of which are economically important species and vital marine resources. Local inhabitants have used these resources in a sustainable manner for hundreds of years. However, the pressure on these resources has recently substantially increased. Mangrove habitats, which are very important nursery and feeding grounds for a large number of marine species, are threatened by woodcutters, camel grazing, pollution and reclamation. Beautiful coral reef habitats have been adversely affected by various disturbances such as pollution, shipping, fishing activities, sedimentation, coral predators and global climate change. These have caused major declines in living coral cover in many places including Socotra Island. Catches of shrimps and lobsters have dropped sharply over the past few years. Although natural fluctuations are common, these resources might already be exploited beyond the maximum sustainable yield. Recent decline in cuttlefish fishery indicate a recruitment collapse, and over fishing of sea cucumbers is very obvious.
Fishing is a traditional profession for thousands of Yemenis who are using various types of fishing gears and fishing methods. Catches of important pelagic fishes such as the Indian mackerel and the Spanish mackerel indicate a sharp decline during the last few years. Other major pelagic resources have also shown a regular decline since 1993-1994. Sharks are mainly caught for their fins, which are exported and fetch high price in the international markets. Shark catches also dropped sharply in the last few years. Recent years have shown a steep decline in numbers of exported aquarium fishes. Sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals also threatened.
Overexploitation, habitats destruction and pollution have lead to the deterioration of many natural resources all over the world. Thus conservation of natural resources becomes one of the major global environmental concerns. In Yemen, there are no adequate and justifiable data for the formulation of suitable regulations and control measures to protect and conserve those resources, which are threatened due to environmental and anthropogenic causes. The rapidly growing population and rate of development threaten the sustainability of many marine resources. Protective measures, stocks assessments and proper management are needed to prevent the deterioration of our marine resources.