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Fishermen hit hard by Bahrain protests

Manama, May 2, 2011

Bahrain's unrest has had a major impact on the country's beleaguered fishermen, who say they are already struggling with declining fish stocks.

Attacks on expatriates by anti-government protesters forced many into hiding, while others returned home for good.

It meant dhow owners had fewer labourers to help them and Bahrain's market recently sold only fish from Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Fishermen say they are also struggling to cope with Bahrain's sea curfew, which has reportedly further reduced the size of their catch.

The Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) introduced the measure last month as part of efforts to beef up security.

All vessels are prohibited from sailing between 5pm and 6am in Fasht Al Athem, Hidd and other areas until further notice.

Fishermen's Protection Society general-secretary Abdulameer Al Mughani said the curfew meant fishermen were unable to be at sea overnight - at the peak time.

'Fishermen with small boats were earlier sailing at around 9am and staying out at sea until 8pm,' he said.

'But due to the curfew, they now leave early to compensate for their inability to fish during nighttime, when there is more fish.

'Dhows are also being affected as they have to stay clear of areas under the ban at night, which usually brought them more of a catch.'

Fishermen are also reportedly losing valuable time as a result of inspections at Coastguard checkpoints, which can mean a delay of several hours.

'Up to three hours is lost due to checkpoints introduced by Bahrain Coastguards as part of the security measures,' said Al Mughani.

'This is why fishermen sail as early as the curfew allows and stay till the very maximum to try to bring back the most catch.'

The curfew covers many main coasts in the country, including Bahrain Financial Harbour, Askar, Busaiteen, Budaiya, Karzakan and Zallaq.

Fishermen mostly affected are Safi catchers, who usually only catch that type of fish at night, according to Al Mughani.

'Now they are trying to catch other types just to make ends meet and support their livelihoods,' he said.

'If the curfew is lifted by July 15, when shrimp ban season is off, this will also affect shrimp dhows.'

A source said no exceptions could be made for the curfew.

'The law is clear, no one is allowed to sail nor be present at these areas within the curfew ban,' they said.

'Areas not included are a different matter and fishermen can sail through the night.'

Bahrain Coastguard commander Colonel Ala'a-Eddine Seyadi earlier revealed that the maritime force was dedicated to doing its duty of enforcing law and order across Bahrain's territorial waters.

He said the Coastguard played a major role in providing security for sailors. Col Seyadi earlier said the Coastguard had been working to halt fishing violations as well as preventing smuggling operations.

He said the Electronic Security Fence project had played a major role in helping monitor regional waters and prevent smuggling operations.

He also said all vessels approaching Bahrain were being monitored for irregular activities to ensure any illegal operations were foiled.

Col Seyadi said there was constant co-ordination with the Anti-Narcotics Unit as well as the Special Security Forces and the air force, to check the smuggling of drugs, weapons, alcohol and people.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Food | Security | Maritime | expats | unrest | protests | Fishermen |

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