The Tunisian Coast Guard arrested 16 Egyptian fishermen on Tuesday for fishing within Tunisia’s maritime territory.
The Tunisian Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the fishermen’s boat, registered at Egypt’s governorate of Port Said, was intercepted off the Tunisian coast. Upon detention the boat and the fishermen were led to the nearest commercial port in Zarzis.
The fine for illegally entering Tunisian territorial waters ranges from $20,000 and $220,000.
Egyptian fishermen have been arrested previously while fishing in the territorial waters of neighbouring countries, including Libya, Tunisia and Turkey. Upon the completion of the juridical proceedings, they have been deported to Egypt.
Nine Egyptian fishermen, who were detained for illegal fishing, were released in October after being interrogated and fined by Tunisian authorities.
This case came one month after Tunisia released 14 Egyptian fishermen who were arrested a month prior near Sfax port, for trespassing into Tunisia’s maritime territory. Three other fishermen, who were among the 14 previously released, were deported earlier in December after settling the fine payment with the Tunisian authorities.
In previous comments to the media, Aboul-Hassan, an elder among the fishermen in Suez Bakry, stated that the Egyptian waters don’t suffice except to meet 30% of the fishing demand, and the rest of the quantity is provided through aquaculture centred on industrial fish farming. Aboul-Hassan explained that the fisheries in Egyptian waters have been depleted due to pollution, pushing Egyptian fisherman to search for fish in foreign waters.
Egyptians are mandated to acquire a number of authorisations to be allowed to fish in international waters; however, some of them refuse to abide by the law and travel without approval, according to previous statements from the Foreign Ministry.
Fifteen fishermen were also released by Libyan authorities later in November after four months in detention in Benghazi for territorial breach.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned fishermen against crossing into the territorial waters of neighbouring countries.
The ministry also urged the fishermen to respect the sovereignty of those countries and not to pursue any activities in foreign waters without obtaining the required authorisation.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a press release in September that the Tunisian authorities have filed multiple complaints regarding Egyptian fishermen illegally entering national waters. Tunisia says the foreign intrusion depletes their national fisheries, and poses security concerns for its food sovereignty.