By BEGENA P PRADEEP
ALMOST 1,700 fishermen will go ahead with a nationwide strike from today and have even offered to give up their fishing licences, campaigners said yesterday.
They hope to force the government to compensate them for losses they claim to have suffered as a direct result of land reclamation.
The fishermen are also demanding a review of all future reclamation policies, saying coastal developments have led to a massive decline in fish supplies over the past five years – costing fishermen up to 80pc of their income.
Today’s strike will continue indefinitely and is being spearheaded by the Bahrain Fishermen Society, with the support of the Bahraini Fishermen Trade Union and local fish importers.
The society is also urging traders in neighbouring countries to support the strike by refusing to export fish here.
If that happened fish could virtually disappear from the country’s supermarkets and dedicated fish markets are already expected to close.
“We are determined to reach our goals,” a society spokesman told the GDN yesterday.
“There is going to be no fish from when we begin the strike, except for the fish (left over) from previous days.
“As soon as that goes, there will be no fish at all. We have also urged traders from Saudi Arabia – the main importer of fish to Bahrain – to stop bringing in fish.
“Bahrain does not import fish from other neighbouring countries like Qatar directly – only through Saudi Arabia.
“If Saudi Arabia also stops exporting fish to Bahrain, that means there will be no fish at all and our strike will become stronger.
“We have also sent letters to companies who import fish to support us in this cause and they have agreed to co-operate.”
Today’s action follows a string of demonstrations organised by the society in Muharraq over the past few months.
The fishermen want authorities to scrap the BD200 biennial fee and BD10 monthly fee imposed by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) for each expat they employ.
They have already won the backing of parliament’s public utilities and environment affairs committee, which is now trying to arrange new talks to resolve the issue.
Committee chairman MP Jawad Fairooz earlier vowed that MPs would be present at fishermen’s gatherings during the strike.
He claimed parliament’s demands to develop the fishing industry had been neglected, but said MPs were drawing up a new proposal to establish a government compensation fund to support fishermen.
The fund would be financed by taxes levied from organisations or investors who have harmed the marine environment, whether government organisations or private investors.