Crazy fish, indignant fishermen

Ahmed Maged
6 Min Read

Ban on fishing endangering the fishermen

ALEXANDRIA: Fishermen and other boatmen who earn a living from the Mediterranean Sea continue to be indignant following the implementation of a ban on fishing along the Egyptian coasts.

This ban began at the beginning of May, in line with an agreement aimed at conserving fish and other marine life in the Mediterranean basin.

In Alexandria, as well as other coastal cities in Egypt, boatmen who fish beyond the the beaches find it difficult to rely on so-called boat picnics for a living. Due to end-of-term exams, these are not currently in great demand.

If I do one picnic every day, that will be fine, said Usama, a boatman who operates in Bahari in east Alexandria.

But everybody is busy right now. At this time of year, I used to depend on fishing. Now with no fishing, no picnics, do they want me to steal? If I am caught fishing in high seas I will be arrested and fined LE 50, he added.

Usama complained: It s really unfair to take this decision. The life of a lot of poor people like me, who fish with a hook, has been ruined.

The authorities should stop some fishermen from Rashid who have left their hometown behind and came to work here. They use three-layer nets that entangle all sizes of fish which will eventually deplete the area of all its sources

A ban should have targeted this category which wreaks havoc with their operations, not me or other poor boatmen.

This is the first time a ban has been imposed for such a long period. Initially, fishing used to be suspended for a day or two on exceptional occasions, including military maneuvers or the presence of a VIP ship near the coast, recalled Usama.

But it s also the first time professionals envy amateurs who line the beach, catching one or two fish, with their fishing rods.

According to press reports, Alexandria s fishermen have taken their case to court, protesting that May and June are peak season. They claim that banning fishing during this period, without notice, has ruined their businesses.

Besides failing to meet their economic and social obligations, fishermen protested that the suspended fishing has made it impossible to clear bank loans.

In their legal proceedings, they said the decision to ban fishing is endangering the lives of 10 million professionals and their families as well as affecting other vocations which are related to fisheries.

They warned that the ban is negotiable because the Mediterranean agreement stipulates that the conditions of fishermen should be taken into consideration before any restrictions are imposed.

Small amateurs remain the luckiest of the bunch, as they can work unnoticed and then sells their catch in a market where fish prices have soared.

One of them is Mohamed Al Sheikh, 18, from Alexandria, who walked along the corniche to tout some sea bass he carried in two big baskets. I am offering it for LE 15, yes only 15, it’s sea bass, look, enthused Al Sheikh.

I ve spent all my day catching it, starting as early as 6 am, please buy anything, it’s a small quantity. I know a guy who can grill for you.

Following the recent decision to ban fishing, eateries are said to be depending on farm fish. Al Sheikah explained: Yes, the ban is not a local procedure but it s been taken in order to market the products of fish farms. This is exactly what happened with meat and chicken as when mad cow and bird flu hit respectively. Now it s the turn of fish but we re the victim.

But reputed fish restaurants are serving fresh fish and other delicacies at high prices. Prawns are offered at between LE 160 and LE 180. One kilo of grilled porgy is worth LE 35, mullet LE 50.

Last year it was the crazy tomato, now it is the crazy fish, said Gaber Ali, an Alexandrian who is fond of fish.

These famous restaurants have their own secret sources all over the country, said Adel Ghamen, a fish seller. They don t take a risk even in the worst of circumstances or they will lose their reputation.

He added: They can t be questioned for offering fresh fish. It s only the fishermen who have to be answerable, not the supplier or the purchaser. Only the tycoons are above the ban. There are always exceptions.

The fishermen are awaiting the court ruling. The poor earners will make it by hook or by crook though, Usama was lucky to have come across two girls who requested a picnic. Al Sheikh managed to sell his two kilos of sea bass.

The ban is required to create a balance and give fish farming a chance. All we need is some better organization. Let s hope for the best.

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