UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In the wake of the dhow : historical changes in the marine ecology and fisheries of the Persian Gulf Al-Abdulrazzak, Dalal


Marine ecosystems have been altered by human activities over millenia, but ecological and fisheries data used to measure these changes are typically only available over the last few decades. Moreover, recent databases, such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) FishStat, do not reflect the true catch of seafood. The misreporting of catches, coupled with a lack of historical reflection can lead to mismanagement and poor policy decisions that jeopardize food security. While these issues are prevalent worldwide, they are especially problematic in places such as the Persian Gulf, where a rich seafaring history is at odds with recent mega-development projects. Developing methods to integrate a diversity of data types is essential for better quantifying changes in the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, as well as for clarifying underlying causes of ecological change. Within the field of historical marine ecology, studies have relied on anecdotal evidence, such as written accounts by explorers and interviews of different generations of resource users, to demonstrate the former abundance of certain species and the extent of their ranges. Intercoder reliability tests show that people's perceptions of historical anecdotes are generally consistent and speak to the reliability of using people's perceptions to acquire quantitative data. In the Persian Gulf, anecdotes can be used to examine changes in dugong abundance and distribution and assessing the efficacy of current management targets. Fishery catch reconstructions for the Persian Gulf from 1950-2010 show that officially reported catches potentially underestimate capture fisheries by a factor of 2, and that countries have primarily reported their artisanal and industrial catches, and substantially underreported their discards, recreational, subsistence, and illegal fishing sectors. In addition, recent advances in remote-sensing technology allow us to view stationary fishing gear such as weirs from space and mitigate gaps in catch reporting. This dissertation provides context to marine ecosystem management decisions in the Gulf. Because no empirical studies on the region have incorporated historical data, studies on the present ecosystems are based on distorted historical trends and impair our understanding of the management and policy prescriptions necessary for fisheries sustainability in the region.

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