Abdullah Manto: Fisherman who loves releasing the fish back into waters!

Abdullah is a Canadian of Pakistani origin who lives in the UAE and keeps shuttling between these three regions. But this is not an introduction for this 18-year-old law student who aspires to be a conservationist. What intrigues GVS editors about him is his unusual fascination for the fish of the world. Abdullah fell in love with fishing when he was just five, and since then, he has never spent a week away from water – be it river, sea, or ocean and has caught hundreds of fish across five continents.


GVS: You are studying law, but you are also an avid, passionate fisherman; how do these two interests reconcile in your life?

Abdullah: When I first got into fishing at a very young age, it was a peaceful and fun way of passing time with family and friends. As I grew older and started learning more about the sport of fishing, I gained a lot of interest in the marine ecosystem and its conservation. Being that my father is a renowned lawyer in Dubai, I always wanted to work with him. As my interests in law and passion for fishing grew, I thought of various ways in which I could incorporate the two very distinct fields. I came up with the idea of pursuing environmental law, and to be more specific, the law of conservation.

GVS: When & how you got interested in the fish? Which parts of the world you have caught fish and what are the best regions and seas for catching fish?

Abdullah: As far back as I can truly remember, I’ve always loved marine life. I remember as an infant, my father would take me to feed seagulls at the Dubai creek. Around the age of five, he began taking me fishing under Garhoud Bridge in Dubai, where we would cast out a small piece of shrimp and wait for the exhilarating feeling of a fish taking the bait.

These are the earliest memories I have of fishing and where my love for it began. Every summer, I would visit my uncles and grandparents in Canada, and whilst there, my uncles would take me to the closest lake or river and teach me various fishing techniques. Until the age of 11, I was born and raised in Dubai, and while living here my mother worked for emirates airlines.

This unfair advantage meant that, as a family, we traveled all across the globe. I have fished in every continent besides Antarctica and Europe, which are definitely on my bucket list. To name a few, I have fished in Australia, America, Canada, Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand, and Dubai.

While fishing across the globe, I have caught tons of unique species like Mahi Mahi in Seychelles and the rare and elusive Mekong Catfish in Thailand. This species of catfish is extremely special and endangered. It is one of the largest growing freshwater fish in the world, and numerous have been documented exceeding 600 lbs. When I moved to Calgary, Canada, the fishing there was completely different from what I was accustomed to in Dubai. It was the first time I was introduced to the gorgeous freshwater streams and glacier lakes of the Rocky Mountains.

At first sight, I fell in love with this place, and that’s where my passion for conservation and knowledge of the fisheries extensively grew. As I explored the scenic Rocky Mountains of Canada and found incredible waters untouched by humans, I realized how unbelievable fishing was solely due to the remarkable state of the ecosystem there. In my experience around the globe, the greatest fishing lies in places with a strong ecosystem.

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GVS: How do you differentiate between your Canadian and UAE experiences? What fish have you ended up liking the best? Why?

Abdullah: Both experiences are important but very different and not easily comparable. One region being an extremely hot desert, and the other being close to the North Pole and high in attitude due to the incredible glacier-filled mountains, is extremely cold. In my opinion, the Rocky Mountains would be my ideal place to live. Not only do I miss the breath-taking beauty of the ice fields but also the incredibly clean air, which could only be explained if one were to inhale it.

The air at the Rocky Mountains is so clean that companies export compressed cans of this air all around the world which are sold at an exorbitant price. With various contrasts within the ecosystems, the fish that reside within it are also inevitably different.

In Calgary, we find freshwater species, including wild trout, pike, and walleye. A bit down towards Vancouver, Salmon is in abundance. In the UAE, all the fish are saltwater species, and there are thousands of different types, including, Queenfish, Tuna, Barracuda, and Shark etc.

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GVS: Can fish in the ocean meet the food requirements of the planet’s burgeoning population?

Abdullah: Simply put, no. The wild fish that reside in the ocean cannot feed the world’s population for long, as due to irresponsible fishing habits, many of the species have become extinct or are close to extinction. There is a lot more to that question than what meets the eye.

Currently, we harvest approximately 10,90,000 tons of wild fish per year, while we harvest 11,20,000 tons of farmed fish annually. The current consumption of wild fish has severe repercussions on the marine ecosystems as many species have gone extinct, and multiple are critically endangered yet still being harvested.

If humans were to farm fish and only consume those rather than harvesting wild-caught fish, not only would it not impact the fish population, but most species would begin to blemish like they once did many decades ago.

The way to sustainably is to harvest enough fish to feed the planet’s burgeoning population rather than consuming wild fish.

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