"Ever since fishing with explosives began, disaster has befallen us; The number of fish we used to catch with rods and hooks has decreased a lot. The explosives destroy everything in the water," Mohammad, a native of the southern Lebanese town of Adloun, tells Raseef22 of the disadvantages of fishing with explosives.
Many problems are threatening the fish stocks in Lebanon’s waters, but the most serious entails the use of explosive materials in fishing. Blast fishing, fish bombing, dynamite fishing or grenade fishing, is an illegal and destructive fishing practice using dynamite or other explosives to stun or kill schools of fish. During the past century, some fishermen have been using explosives to kill fish in order to obtain the largest possible amount of fish, and over the years the pace of this illegal method has decreased due to procedures made by the security services and coast guard. However, with Lebanon entering a major political and economic crisis, this phenomenon has returned to the fore once again in many coastal areas, posing a real threat to marine life and humans.
“The number of fish we used to catch with rods and hooks has decreased a lot. The explosives destroy everything in the water”
One of those who are familiar with the mechanism of making explosives used in fishing indicates that fishermen make dynamite (explosives) themselves, by using chemical fertilizer materials, mixing them, and then cooking them in a specific way (we refrain from mentioning them). And when the explosive fingers are finished, they are tied to stones to sink as much as possible, and when they reach the bottom and explode, they kill huge numbers of fish and marine animals, all of which float up to the surface of the water, and fishermen collect them with ease.
Explosives are a grave danger
Article 25 of the 1929 Lebanese Coastal Fishing Control Law prohibits fishing using explosive substances, drugs, and all types of substances intended to poison fish, which means that Lebanese law has explicitly noted the danger of this type of fishing.
Idriss Atris, president of the Association of Fishermen in the Jnah and Ramlet el-Bayda area in Beirut, tells Raseef22 of the danger of using explosives in fishing, as this process kills fish of all sizes, and destroys fish eggs that are affected by the explosion. "The seriousness of this issue has a great, negative impact on fish wealth, and through it, fishermen kill all types and sizes of fish, small and large, as well as those that are in the stage of ovulation and reproduction," he says.
Photo by Bilal Qashmar – A Raseef22 exclusive
For his part, the director of the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve and marine science researcher, Dr. Ali Badreddine, stresses that the use of dynamite or explosives of all kinds for fishing is dangerous, as the entire ecosystem and ecological diversity in the sea of Lebanon is destroyed. While speaking to Raseef22, he points out that eighty percent of the Lebanese coast is rocky, and this is very special, because it is a suitable place for the reproduction and proliferation of living marine wealth, and the use of explosives will pose a threat to marine life and its continuity.
According to Badreddine, explosives are more dangerous than narrow and drift nets, which are prohibited in fishing by law, as they destroy marine wealth and ecological diversity in its entirety, from the smallest creatures in the sea to the largest. They also affect and endanger sea turtles, as well as eliminate their food supply due to the use of explosives.
Major losses in fish stocks
It's not just explosives that pose a threat to Lebanon's fish resources, as there are many other factors. According to Atris, the sewage water that is dumped into the sea without any proper or scientific treatment with all the chemicals and toxins it carries, all flows onto the rocky seashore, which is the place where fish come to lay their eggs, and so the fish and eggs are affected by this pollution. Also, the presence of large quantities of plastics in the sea, especially with the presence of random dumps on some beaches such as the "Costa Brava" landfill south of Beirut, poses a great danger to marine life.
Fishing with explosives or other prohibited materials has come back to the fore in recent years after it wasn’t possible to cover areas farther out into the sea due to the high price of fuel allocated to coast guard boats
Atris adds, "Let’s not forget the quantities of sand that come with the sewage water from sand and soil sinks, as well as the aggression done against beaches at the hands of swimming pools that bury natural sea rocks with cement, and fish are known to lay their eggs only in natural rock. All of these reasons have led to the loss of fish habitats, and consequently the decline of fish wealth in Lebanon."
Referring to the extent of this decline and losses in the absence of official figures or statistics, fisherman Mohammad says that in the past, he used to catch many kilograms of fish that were enough for his family, but today he doesn’t catch more than two kilograms at best, and therefore suffers from stifling living conditions.
There is also the problem of fishermen who use a fishing rifle, and according to Atris, this rifle also needs a license, but some divers kill the fish while it is entering its den in order to lay its eggs, and this is very dangerous for the continuity of fish, as well as the use of a manual "shovel" net that ensnare large numbers of fish in its ropes.
Awareness and accountability are imperative
Badreddine stresses that there is a need to educate fishermen and inform them of the laws and the importance of ecological diversity and ecosystems, as most fishermen currently do not know about the sea, other than it is home to fish, and they do not realize the importance of other creatures that our sea is known for. In this context he talks about the importance of the awareness campaigns carried out by the reserve’s management, in cooperation with the municipality of Tyre, for fishermen. He says, "We are looking for the results of these campaigns, as the fisherman today in Tyre has become aware of the importance of preserving the continuity of species at sea through the adoption of legal methods in fishing. Following illegal methods threatens these species and their survival, and thus threatens the livelihood of these fishermen who have no source of livelihood other than the sea."
Photo by Bilal Qashmar – A Raseef22 exclusive
"The laws must be applied because they prohibit the use of dynamite, nets and other pesticides for marine wealth, and prevent the hunting of some creatures such as endangered sharks, as well as turtles and dolphins, but today, with the absence of monitoring and accountability, we see many violations," he adds.
In turn, Atris stressed the role of the security forces and the coast guard in combating the phenomenon of fishing with explosives or poisons. According to him, fishing boats must be inspected periodically and made sure that they are free of these prohibited substances, as well as preventing boats from carrying air generators, which fishermen use through a hose that supplies them with air for long periods of time under water, so that they can catch fish with a gun without leaving any behind to reproduce.
He also calls for addressing the sewage problem, as it is not permissible to dump it in this random manner, adding that the existing refining plants must be activated and others must be developed to treat wastewater before dumping it directly into the sea, as well as preventing the establishment of landfills on beaches because of their catastrophic damage to fish wealth and humans alike.
Explosives are more dangerous than illegal drift nets, as they destroy marine wealth and ecological diversity from the smallest to the largest creatures in the sea, also endangering sea turtles and eliminating their food supply due to the use of explosives
A security source tells Raseef22 that fishing with explosives or other prohibited materials has come back to the fore in recent years, after it wasn’t possible to cover areas farther out into the sea due to the high price of fuel allocated to watch boats, and the inability of the coast guard to reach fishermen's boats at sea in some cases, which has made it easier for some of them to fish with explosives.
The source adds that things have not yet gotten out of control, and that the security units tasked with combating these violations will carry out their duties despite all the crises Lebanon is going through, by enforcing laws and punishing violators.
The danger of explosives and poisons to humans
Explosives and poisons not only pose a threat to marine life and ecological diversity, but also to humans. Dozens of fishermen have been killed when fingers of dynamite and explosives blew up while they were preparing or throwing them. According to what a private source reported to Raseef22, eight fishermen from the city of Tyre, up until 1992, were killed due to the use of such explosives, in addition to injury of many others.
Photo by Bilal Qashmar – A Raseef22 exclusive
Explosives also pose a danger to those who are in the vicinity where they are thrown, as, according to the source, they lead to the death of the person or cause serious bodily harm to him.
As for poisons, their danger lies in that they eliminate large numbers of fish wealth and other creatures, and their effects reach humans as soon as they feed from these poisoned fish, and may lead to poisoning or death.
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