Is the sun setting on Lebanon's fishermen? Photo by Petteri Sulonen via Flickr
"The sea back in the 1960s, '70s and '80s was thick with fish and we were the envy of the town. My pockets were always full and I traveled a lot," says Mustapha Shaalan, 68. Now, like other Lebanese fishermen, he is lucky to make $200 a month, as daily hauls have plunged from 40 kilograms of fish to just one or two."Over-fishing, pollution and dynamite fishing have all but wiped out marine life in the Mediterranean waters off the 220-kilometer-long Lebanese coast, leaving many of the country's estimated 8,000 fishermen destitute," Agence France-Presse reports.
Fish facing extinction
Political turmoil, unsustainable fishing practices, industrial pollution, and lack of government oversight have all played a role in the decline of the country's fisheries -- and the plight of its once-flush fishermen. According to AFP, red mullet, grouper, and small barracudas are among the species facing extinction in Lebanon.
Imad Saoud, an aquatic scientist at American University of Beirut, blames the fishermen themselves, for utilizing destructive practices like dynamite fishing and blowing air into holes on the ocean floor to flush fish out. "We are destroying our sea, completely and totally," he says. "And the problem is that the people who benefit the most from the sea -- the fishermen -- are the people destroying it the most."
But curbs on fishing won't stop heavy-metal-laden factory sewage from flowing into the water, nor speculators from overdeveloping the coastline.
Government lacks funds, patrol boats
Marine biologist Michel Bariche told AFP that he has been working with fisherman to try and develop marine reserves and other protected areas, but says the government "lacks the proper know-how" to implement scientific solutions to the problem.
It also lacks patrol boats, funds, and public support, says Dahej el-Mokdad, head of the department of fisheries and wildlife at the ministry of agriculture.
"The fishermen are aware of the gravity of the situation but when they tell you that they have to work to bring in three or six dollars a day to buy bread for their families, what can you do?" el-Mokdad told AFP. "They either starve or go on using illegal practices to fish." Via: "Lebanon's struggling fishermen angling for a catch," Agence France-Presse
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