Bahrain plans crackdown on fish smuggling
Manama, July 10, 2014
A new crackdown on fish smuggling has been launched amid growing fears of depleting stocks in Bahrain.
The Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry wants to introduce tougher penalties, saying the existing punishment of up to BD50 ($131.8) fine was not enough to deter offenders, who were being caught in larger numbers on the King Fahad Causeway, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Professor Mohamad Foda, who is agricultural consultant to Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Under-Secretary Shaikh Khalifa bin Isa Al Khalifa, said they have already imposed restrictions on Bahrain's 38 exporters in a bid to tackle low supplies in the local market.
"There are 38 fish exporting companies in Bahrain exporting throughout the year, you can't say there are not enough fish in our waters," he told the GDN.
"We have been approached by fishermen and fishing companies that sell locally saying that there isn't enough fish.
"There are enough fish but too much is being exported both legally and illegally.
"We're seeing more people getting caught on the causeway and when they are caught they are fined a small amount and are sent back.
"However, these fines are too low to scare them."
He said plans were in place to review the fish exportation law to end this illegal practice.
"Shaikh Khalifa has reviewed what is going on with fish in Bahrain and the fishing permissions as well as the export permissions," he said.
"He has asked to increase the punishment for not only illegal fish exports but all maritime infringements.
"The process to get the law enacted is; first it is reported to the minister, then to legislators then a ministerial law is drafted and then it is approved by the Cabinet."
Prof Foda said another major reason for dwindling supplies of fish locally was the subcontracting of fishing boats as Bahraini fishermen often hire expatriates to go out into the sea.
"Many fishermen don't actually do the fishing themselves which is a problem," he explained.
"They will hire an Asian to fish for them making a deal with them to supply them with something like 20kg a day and anything they catch beyond the 20kg the Asians can take for themselves.
"The problem with this is that the Asian will do anything he can to get as much fish as possible, with no regard for the fish population - it is an issue we are working on resolving."
Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry fisheries director Ibtisam Abdulla Khalaf said smugglers made more than 100 per cent profit since fish sold in Bahrain was indirectly subsidised.
"Exports between neighbouring countries has been ongoing for a long time, but it (fish smuggling) could possibly have escalated due to issuance of fishing banned seasons for commercial species in GCC countries at variable timings and duration, fluctuation of fish prices in international markets, or the boost in regional population," she said.
"Smugglers may gain some financial revenue which could reach 100 per cent to 150 per cent of the original sales price, depending on the season." - TradeArabia News Service