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Status analysis of the Red Sea fisheries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia



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Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Biology & Fisheries
Zoology Department, Faculty of Science,
Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.
ISSN 1110 6131
Vol. 24(7): 825 833 (2020)
Status analysis of the Red Sea fisheries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Lafi Al Solami
Department of Marine Biology, Faculty of Marine Sciences, King Abdulaziz University,
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
The Red Sea is one of the world's largest ecosystems, unique in nature and ecology,
and its environment also needs further debate and serious study (Rasul and Stewart,
2015). The Red Sea has an area of approximately 451,000 km2, but it is not considered
highly productive due to the low flow of natural nutrients coming from the land through
rain and floods (Tesfamichael and Pauly, 2016). The length of the Red Sea is
approximately 2250 km and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has about 1840 km on western
coast of the Red Sea and extends from the Gulf of Aqaba in the north to the Jezzan region
in the south (RSBP, 2016). Fish captures from the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia represents
almost half of the production from the Arabian Gulf which is located on the eastern side
of the Kingdom, despite the fact that the area of the Red Sea represents three times the
Arabian Gulf (Tesfamichael and Pauly, 2016; MEWA, 2018). The total fish captures
from the Red Sea of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reached 24,016 metric tons in 2018
Article History:
Received:Aug. 24, 2020
Accepted: Nov. 30, 2020
Online: Dec. 12, 2020
Fish stock assessment;
marine fisheries;
fishery resources;
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a unique marine ecosystem and Saudi Arabia's coastline has
the longest portion. The Red Sea ecosystem off Saudi Arabia's coast is
characterized by vibrant nature that is populated by many forms of marine life
and more than a third of known fish species spend part or all of their lives in
coral reef habitat. Saudi Arabia's fishing fleet has recently developed and
diversified the methods. Large fishing vessels such as trawling and purse seine
have been engaged in fishing at the Red Sea, along with artisanal fishing,
resulting in increased pressure on fish stocks. The fishing fleet operating in the
Saudi Red Sea has increased substantially since 1996, in comparison, fish catch
has not increased. Government endeavours to monitor and track fishing
activities to reduce the depletion of stocks. Industrial development, human
activity, and urban expansion affect the Red Sea environment significantly. The
timely detection and control of pollution emissions also decrease its impacts on
the Red Sea ecosystem. Finally, the Saudi coastal Red Sea fisheries need a lot of
serious research to provide information and data that contribute to their natural
resource sustainability.
Lafi Al Solami, 2020
(MEWA, 2018). The capture fishes from natural sources are contributes to Saudi food
security, which the average consumption is 13.5 kg/capita in 2013 (FAO, 2020). The
abundance of information related to the biological diversity of the Red Sea environment
at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is of great importance for identify potential risks to the
environment and optimize planning for their sustainable use (RSBP, 2016).The diversity
in habitats such as difference of structures of coral reefs, sea grass and mangrove forests,
represent an appropriate environment for fish reproduction and growth (Honda et al.,
2013). The aim of this study is to discuss the issues related to the Red Sea fisheries at the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to highlight on ways to development towards sustainability and
maximize productivity.
The Red Sea ecosystem off the coast of Saudi Arabia is characterized by lively nature
which is inhabited by many marine life forms (Fig. 1). In a coral reef ecosystem more
than a third of known fish species spend part or all of their lives (Sale, 2002; Bruckner,
Fig. 1: Saudi Arabia Red Sea map reveals how the mangroves and coral reefs are
distributed (Gladstone et al.,2003; Carvalho et al., 2019).
Status analysis of the Red Sea fisheries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Coral reef surroundings appear heterogeneous and highly complex along the Saudi coast
in terms of structures, forms, styles and abundances (Wilkinson, 2008). The Red Sea's
exclusive Saudi economic zone includes the largest gatherings of Coral Reef in Red Sea
ecosystem (Bruckner, 2011). Owing to climate change and coastal dredging on the Red
Sea coast, such as Jeddah and other modern cities, coral cover has shrunk significantly
over the past three decades in the region (Price et al., 2014). Seagrass and seaweed are no
less important than coral reefs, but it can be more important than other habitats, where it
plays a major nutritional role for many marine species and a nursery for many fish larvae
(Dawes, 1998). Seaweeds and seagrass habitat spread across the Red Sea in several
different areas, and mangrove forests become more common as we head south (Leliaert
and Coppejans, 2003). Global climate change and local human activities such as
eutrophication and overfishing are among the most important stresses on the Red Sea
from the local ecosystems (Jessen et al., 2013). Increasing artisanal fishing activity and
developing the fleet through the implementation of industrial fishing in Saudi Arabia has
resulted in substantially increased environmental pressure (Bruckner, 2011). Bottom
trawling, for example, is the most harmful tool on the seabed because it cuts and plows
the bottom and kills the habitat and benthos, as well as increased by-catch mortality.
(Jones, 1992). Monitoring degradation and planning to conserve habitats of the Red Sea
coral reef, mangrove forest and seagrass avoids the loss of fish stocks and encourages
protection in addition to increasing future biodiversity catches (PERSGA, 2003).
The fishing fleet operating in the Red Sea has been developed in Saudi Arabia by
commercial fishermen. The fish catches were limited in the early 1950s, and the major
shift in the early 1980s came with the rapid mechanization of craft boats, and the start of
commercial fishing (Tesfamichael and Pauly, 2012). Large fishing vessels such as
trawling and purse seine have recently been engaged in fishing at the Red Sea, along with
small boats called artisanal fishing (Tesfamichael and Pauly, 2016). Since 1996, the
fishing fleet operating in Saudi Red Sea fisheries has increased substantially, as seen in
Figure 2, accounting for 5,055 small boats and 126 large industrial fishing vessels and
increased to 8653 small boats and 158 large industrial fishing vessels (MEWA, 2018).
Lafi Al Solami, 2020
Fig. 2: A fishing fleet diagrams operating off the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia's exclusive economic
zone from 1996 to 2018 showing the number of large commercial and traditional fishing vessels
(Data source: MEWA, 2018).
This significant increase in fishing fleet resulted in negative impacts on fish stocks and
the ecosystem, which was evident in the levels of production, which did not witness the
rise in the same number of vessels. The data recorded total fish capture production for the
Red Sea 23,201 metric tons in 2001 and recorded 24,016 metric tons with a slight
difference in increase in 2018 as seen in Figure 3 (MEWA, 2018).
Fig. 3: Total catch of fish from Saudi Arabia Red Sea fishery in series period 2001 to 2018 (Data
source: MEWA, 2018).
Industrial fishing boats
Artisanal fishing
Status analysis of the Red Sea fisheries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Artisanal fishing boats with a size ranging from 5 to 18 m, generally made of wood or
synthetic fibers, locally called Sambuk and commonly used longline hooks and gillnet
(Tesfamichael and Pitcher, 2006).The Saudi industrial fishery primarily consists of large
trawl (bottom, middle and surface) and purse seine vessels and many of them are owned
and operated by the Saudi Fishing Company (Tesfamichael and Pauly, 2016). Fish
species (Spanish Mackerel, Jacks, Groupers, Emperors, Snappers, Barracudas, and
Tunas) represent most target species in and make up more than 76% of Saudi Arabia's
artisanal fishery catch composition of the Red Sea (Tesfamichael and Pauly,
2012).Industrial fishing is primarily focused on shrimp, and finfish is second, most of the
fleets are operate and landing in the Jezzan area (Tesfamichael and Pauly, 2016).In
bottom trawl fishing vessels for shrimp in the Jezzan area, 98 fish species were recorded
and most of them were considered by-catch (Bogorodsky et al., 2014).
Fisheries sustainability in Saudi Arabia is in the same situation with most participating
Red Sea countries, as more fishing operations are undertaken in the region (Tesfamichael
et al., 2014). The assumption that the majority of catches are inoperative or have a minor
impact from artisanal fishing is inaccurate, while catches per unit effort are decreasing for
some boats, and some others have become unsustainable (Tesfamichael et al., 2014;
Carvalho et al., 2019). Overfishing, especially sharks, has led to the threat of extinction
and destruction of stocks which led to the issuance of a royal decree banning all shark-
fishing practices (Spaet and Michael, 2015). Other species such as rabbit fish (Siganus
rivulatus) in Jeddah site Red Sea fisheries were estimated based on growth parameters
and mortality coefficients for stock evaluation and the outcome concluded that stock is
currently over-exploited (Gabr et al., 2018). Modern approaches for evaluating fish
stocks, such as the new ecosystem-based fisheries approach, have been used to evaluate
Red Sea fisheries off Egypt, which allows to be used with lack of information (Al Solami
et al., 2020). The EBFA approach consistency of two tier structures developed by (Zhang
et al., 2009); tier1 is focused on quantitative analysis and needs a high level of
information; tier 2 is a semi-quantitative or qualitative analysis requiring a lower level of
information and the use of management goals and characteristics, metrics and reference
points, nested risk indices and management status indices (Zhang et al., 2011; Al Solami
et al., 2020). Therefore, the availability of information and the use of modern stock
assessment tools and the proper management for ecosystem allow the stock to be
recovered and made sustainable (Roberts et al., 2005).Other research indicated that the
overexploitation of stocks is a result of the weakness of fishing fleets and lack to modern
technology and recommended the use of full technical efficiency of fishing methods and
to implementation techniques in finding places where fish are gathering in addition to
avoid of overfishing (Al-Sultan et al., 2018).
Lafi Al Solami, 2020
Human activities and their interactions with the aquatic environment are not beneficial
and have a negative impact on ecosystems and fish stocks, so protecting them from
pollution is necessary for the future (Pejman et al., 2015). Nevertheless, the pollution has
contributed to the depletion of up to 70% of Saudi Red Sea fishing income, leading to
exposure to intense pressure due to illegal fishing, untreated waste, shipping and oil
(Towers, 2013). By-catch and discards waste from commercial fishing often has the same
effect where there are multiple species and quantities discharged (Kahal et al., 2020). In
addition, heavy rain leads to sudden death to large amounts of fish as a result of washing
ground and contaminates the environment, like what happened in Jeddah in 2016 (Affan
et al., 2018). So, the new coastal cities have had a major effect on the Red Sea
environment, where the concentration of toxic materialsin the sediment is rising as a
result of industrial and urban development in the area (Badr et al., 2009). However, toxic
levels have not been substantially concentrated in edible fish tissue of the Red Sea off
Saudi Arabia, and also below the end of the recorded global range (Batang et al., 2016).
The Saudi government is making significant efforts to minimize marine contamination,
and over the past five years these efforts have helped to stabilize percentages of
production (Towers, 2013).
The Red Sea is unique marine ecosystem and Saudi Arabia's coastline has the
longest portion. The industrial growth, human activity and urban development have
significant impact on the Red Sea environment. Saudi Arabia's fishing fleet has recently
developed and diversified the methods, resulting in increased pressure on fish stocks.
Government endeavours to monitor and track fishing activities to reduce depletion of
stocks. Lack of information and reliable data on total catch are barriers to making stock
appraisal programmes. Prompt identification of pollution emissions and the effort to
monitor it often reduces its impacts on Red Sea ecosystem. Finally, Saudi coastal Red
Sea fisheries need a lot of serious research work to provide knowledge and data that
contribute to the sustainability of their natural resources.
All thanks and gratitude to King AbdulAziz University, College of Marine Sciences,
Department of Marine Biology for providing the necessary references for this research.
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Saudi Arabia diverse landforms include saltmarshes, sand dunes, desert plains, desert pavements, ancient lava fields, and mountains. Climate is influenced by winter Polar and summer Tropical Continental air masses. Tropical Maritime air affects southwestern regions during summer. Climate depends also on location and altitude with hot humid coastal areas, hot dry deserts, hyper-arid desert pavements and lava fields, and temperate mountainous regions. Climate exhibits spatiotemporal patterns reflecting north-south gradients of temperature, rainfall, evapotranspiration, and aridity. Vast latitudinal range and steep altitudinal gradient create temperature variations, affect rainfall seasonality and distribution, and influence dry season duration. Distribution of plant communities and species reflects multitudinous interactions between climate and plant traits, physiology, and chorology. Species exhibiting C3 photosynthesis inhabit cool northern regions and temperate southwestern mountains, species with C4 photosynthesis inhabit hot low-lying regions, and arido-active succulents with crassulacean acid metabolism dominate hyper-arid desert pavements and lava fields. Plant distribution also relates to species chorology with Euro-Siberian, Irano-Turanian, and Mediterranean chorotypes dominating cool northern regions and temperate southwestern mountains, while Saharo-Sindian, Sudano-Zambezian, and Tropical chorotypes dominating hot southern regions. Plant communities and species occurring in different habitats are described in relation to their traits, physiology, and chorology. Nature reserves and phytodiversity hotspots are considered with special reference to endemic, rare, endangered, and invasive species. An environmental perspective is also given in relation to anthropogenic pressures and positive directives of Saudi Vision 2030.
Full-text available
The data requirements for most quantitative fishery assessment models are extensive, and most of the fisheries in the world lack time series of the required biological and socioeconomic data. Many innovative approaches have been developed to improve data collection for fisheries. We explored the use of data from fishers' interviews to estimate time series of approximate "best" catch rates. A total of 472 standardized interviews were conducted with 423 fishers along the southern Red Sea coast recording the best catch recalled and the change in average catch rates throughout the fishing career of interviewees. The results showed a decline of best catch rates in all fisheries, ranging from 4% to 10% per year for more than 50 years. The estimated rates of decline of the typical catch were higher for fishers who started fishing in recent years, suggesting that the resource base is declining, in concordance with other indicators. It is suggested that analysis of approximate data, quickly acquired at low cost from fishers through interviews, can be used to supplement other data-recording systems or used independently to document the changes that have occurred in the resource base over a lifetime of fishing. The results can be used to guide the assessment and management of resources to conserve ecosystems and livelihoods.
Full-text available
Zhang, C. I., Hollowed, A. B., Lee, J-B., and Kim, D-H. 2011. An IFRAME approach for assessing impacts of climate change on fisheries. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 68: 1318–1328. A new assessment framework is proposed for evaluating the performance of management strategies relative to the goals of an ecosystem approach to management (EAM) under different climate change scenarios. Earlier studies have demonstrated how global climate model simulations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can be used to force regional ocean circulation models and forecast regional changes in bottom-up forcing. We extend this approach to assess the ecosystem impacts of resource use and climate change in marine ecosystems, by developing an Integrated Fisheries Risk Analysis Method for Ecosystems (IFRAME) framework. The IFRAME approach tracks climate change impacts on the flow of energy through the planktonic foodweb using NEMURO and projects the implications of these shifts in bottom-up forcing on the fisheries foodweb using Ecopath with Ecosim. Resource management scenarios are developed and incorporated into the projection framework by characterizing the action for changes in fishing mortality or availability of resources. An integrated suite of ecosystem status indicators are proposed to assess the performance of management scenarios relative to the goals of an EAM. These ecosystem status indicators track four key management objectives of the ecosystem: sustainability, biodiversity, habitat quantity, and quality and socio-economic status.
Full-text available
Concern is growing over how ecosystems are being affected by fishing. A comprehensive ecosystem-based approach is required to holistically assess and manage fisheries resources and their associated habitats by considering ecological interactions of target species with predators, competitors, and prey species, interactions between fishes and their habitats, and the effects of fishing on these processes. A pragmatic ecosystem-based approach was developed for the assessment of fisheries resources in Korean waters involving three management objectives: sustainability, biodiversity, and habitat quality. A two-tier analytical method was employed. Tier 1 was designed for situations where sufficient information is available to allow for a quantitative evaluation of the status of the system, while Tier 2 was designed for situations where available information necessitated a semi-quantitative or qualitative assessment. A total of 20 Tier 1 indicators and 24 Tier 2 indicators were developed for assessment of ecosystem status. Both target and limit reference points were chosen for each indicator to assess the status of species, fisheries and ecosystems. Nested risk indices, such as objectives risk index (ORI), species risk index (SRI), fishery risk index (FRI), and ecosystem risk index (ERI), were developed to assess the ecosystem status at the management unit level. A risk assessment diagram was developed and found to be useful in quickly displaying results. A management status index (MSI) was also developed to evaluate the level of management improvement in species, fisheries, or ecosystems among different time periods or different areas. The method was demonstrated by applying it to the Tongyeong marine ranch and the Korean large purse seine fishery. It was found that this approach can be used to compare the status of species, fisheries and ecosystems spatially and temporally using an ecosystem perspective.
The Red Sea, characterized by a number of unique oceanographic and biological features, is a hotspot for coral reef ecology. It also provided humans for millennia, from the earliest record of human consumption of seafood to its current role as an important fishing ground for the seven countries along its shores. Contemporary fisheries need monitoring and management, and catch data are crucial to both. However, reliable time-series of catch data are lacking for most Red Sea fisheries. Here, the catches of Red Sea fisheries are ‘reconstructed’ from 1950 to 2010 by country (i.e., Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel) and sector (artisanal, subsistence, industrial and recreational), and in terms of their species composition. Historical documents, published and unpublished reports and other grey literature, databases, field surveys, anecdotal information, interviews, and information on processed seafood products were used as sources.
A multidisciplinary comparative evaluation of the “health” or sustainability status of 26 major Red Sea fisheries from 5 countries was performed using 44 scored attributes in ecological, economic, social, technological and ethical fields. A multidimensional scaling (MDS) technique (“Rapfish”) was employed to visualize the status of the fisheries for each evaluation field. Comparisons were made among the countries bordering the Red Sea coast, between artisanal and industrial fisheries, and between west and east coast fisheries. Monte Carlo re-sampling was used to analyze uncertainty. Leverage analysis examined the sensitivity of status results to each attribute in the five evaluation fields. Lack of reliable fisheries stock assessment data is not unusual in many tropical countries; however, this paper demonstrates that the approximate relative status of fisheries can be obtained using attributes which are relatively easy to score in a transparent fashion with defined uncertainty.
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