Protest SOS by fishermen

MORE than 300 Bahraini fishermen and their relatives demonstrated outside the Fishermen’s Protection Society, Muharraq, yesterday, claiming they were slipping into poverty. The protest was the first in a wave of demonstrations set to take place to pressure the government into meeting their demands.

They want a full exemption from the Labour Market Regulatory Authority’s (LMRA) BD10-a-month levy per expatriate worker, claiming they can only find foreign workers willing to go to sea.

The fishermen say the authorities are responsible for the rapid decline in marine stocks due to a lack of regulations that has allowed too many people to hold fishing licences.

They also say that land reclamation and sand dredging of the seabed has been directly responsible for a massive reduction in the quantity of fish they catch.

As a result, they want government compensation for loss of earnings.

The society’s treasurer Abdulameer Abdulla said the protest also aimed to highlight the continuing theft of fishing nets and stop land dredging and reclamation.

“If the matter continues they will not be able to continue fishing anymore,” he said.

“We had promises last year that the fishermen will be (permanently) exempted from the BD10 monthly levy per expatriate worker but it (a three-month exemption) was stopped last June.”

Mr Abdulla said fishermen were also promised that construction companies would be asked to pay compensation through a special fund after carrying out dredging and land reclamation but to date nothing had happened.

“We were told by parliament that the support that will be given to the fishermen will cause a burden on the government,” he said.

“This protest is the beginning of a string of protests and I hope that the government will meet our demands.”

He said fishermen were suffering because for most it was main source of income and they were slipping into poverty.

“They are finding it very difficult to get enough stocks due to all the dredging and land reclamation taking place.

“It has destroyed all the coasts and the marine life as they emigrate once their habitat is threatened and this has caused a big problem for them,” he said.

One protesting fisherman said it was clear construction companies did not care about Bahrain’s marine life. “All this land reclamation and damage to the marine life has reflected negatively on us and it is our duty to stand up for ourselves as this is our livelihood and the source of income for our children,” he said.

Society honorary president Wahed Al Dossary earlier said His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa had pledged to personally study and follow up their demands when he visited them during a six-day strike in February last year.

However, fishermen had still not seen any results, he claimed.

Mr Al Dossary said if the protest did not yield results fishermen would continue it until their demands were met.

The society is holding the Marine Resources Directorate responsible for destroying the marine environment.

They also reject the Economic Development Board’s Economic Vision 2030, claiming there is no set plan to preserve what is left of the marine environment.

The protest follows a string of demonstrations and the six-day strike by fishermen last year to demand compensation for lost income and action to protect the industry. rasha@gdn.com.bh

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