Bahrain to step up vigil on high seas
Manama, June 10, 2010
Bahrain is bringing in new technology to protect its borders after an almost 10-fold increase in violations by fishermen between 2006 and last year, it was revealed.
Figures show that eight Bahrainis were caught straying into the territorial waters of other countries in 2006 and this rose to 12 in 2007, 36 in 2008 and 78 last year.
Plans are also underway to establish an e-Border to protect Bahrain's territorial waters and follow the movements of fishermen, said Bahrain Coastguard commander Colonel Ala'a-Eddine Seyadi.
It will consist of highly sensitive radars, long distance surveillance cameras and detection devices.
'The radars are already operating within the coastguard team,' said Col Seyadi.
'The next step is installing the cameras.
'Then every new vessel in Bahrain will be fitted with a detection device to avert any infiltration to neighbouring territorial waters.'
Col Seyadi stressed that the Bahrain Coastguard was being modernised to better police the seas, including a fleet upgrade and new coastal surveillance system.
'Vessels will be roaming the borders to ensure the protection of the country and safety of fishermen,' he said.
Col Seyadi stressed during a Press conference at the Interior Ministry in Manama that that the locations where most Bahraini fishermen got arrested was known to be a drug exchange zone.
Some fishermen were also straying near Qatar's large, lucrative gas fields, he said.
'They have to protect their resources and have the right to insure their borders' safety,' added Col Seyadi.
He revealed procedures of seizing a boat and arresting a fisherman whose vessel strayed to a country's waters was agreed upon by GCC countries.
'We follow the same procedures of Qatar and so does neighbouring countries,' he said.
Fishermen will first be warned by the country's coastguard that they have strayed outside of their borders.
'If they do not follow orders and try to flee, warning shots will be used to order them to stop,' said Col Seyadi.
He revealed that 16 Bahrainis and 72 Bahrain-based expatriate fishermen were being held in Qatar.
'We feel sad about these fishermen being arrested,' he said.
'We hope everyone follows orders and does not put themselves in an awkward situation with our neighbours.'
The GDN reported last month that high-level talks were taking place to tackle the problem of Gulf fishermen straying into the waters of neighbouring countries, according to Bahrain's Coastguard chief.
Col Seyadi earlier revealed that Bahraini authorities were attempting to educate fishermen on respecting national borders, while stressing the importance of using Global Positional Satellite (GPS) technology to monitor their exact location.
Fishermen have been seeking a GCC-wide agreement that would allow them to fish anywhere in the Gulf.
The Fishermen's Protection Society claimed fishermen were forced to trespass in Qatari waters because of declining fish stocks in Bahrain, which it blamed on land reclamation.
However, authorities blamed over-fishing for decreasing fish stocks.
One Bahraini fisherman was killed last June when his boat overturned after being rammed by a Qatari Coastguard patrol.
Mohammed Abdulwahab Hayan's body was found floating in the sea off Qatari coast three days after his boat capsized as he tried to outturn the Qatari authorities.-TradeArabia News Service
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