Fishermen in Hadramout.. Constant Struggle and Escalating Challenges


Mon, 22-11-2021 04:08 PM, Aden

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

The impact of Yemen's political and economic crisis has affected people’s living in the Southern governorates including the oil-and fisheries rich Hadramout which has not been away from the repercussions that cast a shadow over the trade and navigation activities, especially after the recent hike in fuel prices that has posed a big challenge for the local fishermen.

Some low income- citizens in Hadramout have been no longer able to secure 3 meals a day for their families in light of the delay of paying salaries which are too low to adapt to life changes, as the average daily per capita income is about 1.90US$. (1)

A Fisherman from Mukalla, November 18th 2021 (South24, Abdullah Al-Shadli)

In conjunction with the rising fuel prices which have directly affected transport fees and goods’ prices, there has been a new hike in the prices of fish which is a main meal for Hadramis. This led to a reluctance from some fishermen to resume their work, as they shifted to other careers so as to avoid losses they incurred during those maritime voyages in addition to people’s tendency to buy vegetables instead of expensive fish.

The fishermen believe that the gains they achieve don’t often cover their losses, and that the fish sellers secure more gains, as they don’t lose anything and impose inflated prices.

Sabri bin Qurman, a local fisherman, told "South24": “we lose money beyond our capacity for a journey that exceeds 17 nautical miles, but we return without achieving any gains sometimes”, indicating that fishermen are those who bear the brunt of those losses which could last for several months.

“After the fuel prices climbed, fishing became a risk that pushed some of us to completely halt the activities, and many fishermen decided to quit this profession”. He added.

Bin Qurman believes that the production of Mukalla Sea has declined during the recent years, probably because of the reckless fishing by the big ships which swept away fishes and pastures due to the lack of supervision”.

However, Nader Abdel Rahim Bawazeer, Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Fisheries, stressed that “the production of Mukalla Sea has not decreased, but chasing some species of fish is strenuous due to their fast movements, which require large quantities of fuels”. All of these reasons, according to him, push the fishermen to return with heavy losses and the minimum amount of fish.

He also told “South24” that “fish usually migrate from one region to another seeking for proper cold or hot places which could be far away from the fishermen’s reach. All of these factors impact the fishing operations”.

While the world has moved to develop fish farming to reduce pressure on the natural fisheries, Eng. Yaslam Babulghom, the Director of the Arabian Sea’s Fisheries Authority told "South24" that “there is a remarkable decline in the fish production across the world”. He attributed this to the growing number of fishing ships which do not abide by the regulations. 

“There is an illogical rise in practicing fishing, as Hadramout alone has about 22000 fishermen in addition to 7000 in Mahrah, 3000 in each of Shabwa and Socotra”.

Fouad Manouz, a driver, said that “some species of fish like Tabani are not favorites for the local citizens, and are being exported from Mukalla to Egypt and Japan while the local market is not in a state of self-sufficient. This contributes to price hike and creates unavailability”. 

Fish Market in the city of Mukalla in Hadramout, Nov. 18th 2021 (South24, Abdullah Al-Shadli)

The prices of some big fishes which weigh about 70 kg each reach 200000 Yemeni riyals, increasing and decreasing according to the local demand. This costs the seller 2850 riyals per kilo while the customers pay over 5000 riyals for buying it.

Ahmed Hamdah, the Director of Al-Sharj Tawuniya Office in Mukalla said: “we can’t impose a certain price on sellers but greed is a main reason behind the hike of fish prices”. He added: “sellers argue that they have to use preservation materials as a pretext to increase prices, although none of this was necessary”.

Residents believe that fish pricing needs interest and intervention from the local authorities to relieve the burdens placed upon them. They resort to subsidized selling points (Al-Mafaresh).

Said Bajaber, 43 years old, said: “People with low income are not able to buy fish from unsubsidized sellers but the subsidized Mafaresh have reduced their burden a little".

Saleh Al-Shawali said: "We have families, children, schools and commitments. There are two choices available: to prioritize the living requirements and postponing our children and their schools' obligations or vice versa".

Subsidized selling points

Hadramout local authority established a subsidized fish selling point inside the Central Market in Mukalla in which the subsidized price is about 3200 riyals per kilo.

Bawazeer told "South24": “this idea is an interim solution not a long- term one. However, it has a positive impact in forcing the private sector fish sellers to decrease their prices to secure their survival in the market”.

He called the local authorities for obliging the fish societies to establish new selling points, as well as making a partnership between the authority and the Ministry of Fisheries,  represented by the Fisheries Authority to play a role in marketing the fresh fish, storing  at times of surplus and selling them when there is a lack of supplies”.

Bawazeer believes that "the fuel price hike, the lack of using gas and closing big areas of Fisheries due to security reasons have restricted the fishermen’s movements”.

The local fishermen’s ongoing use of the traditional technology "doesn’t serve them and increase their losses" according to Bawazeer.

Babulghom told "South24": “the frequent hurricanes and climate maritimes changes affected the fish production in most countries, and we are part of that”, adding that the real alarming problem is that “they are not aware of the amount of fish stock, according to which the fishing strategies are determines and the allowed fishing amount”.

According to Babulghom, the lack of fishing research is attributed to the absence of financial allocations or operational budgets for the Fisheries Authority unlike other bodies”.

Environmental disasters

Along with these challenges, the oil tanker “Champion1” previously caused an environmental disaster related to the Mukalla Coast in Hadramout in 2013. Its impact has lasted for a long time leading to the migration of some fish and the Coral reefs’ suffocation.

Bawazeer said that “the spill of the oil materials from the tanker at the time formed a solid residue on the sea level”, pointing out that the Coral reefs and the fish pastures breathe through light”.

Sources in the Mukalla Port told "South24" that “Champion1” committed more than 38 violations, and that the relevant authorities were informed and issued directions to suspend it. However, there was a stronger mediation that allowed it to resume activities”.

The sources said that the stranded ship, in Mukalla, still contains oil and petroleum materials”. They warned of continuing this situation in spite of the people’s demand to relegate the ship since 2013.

The “Champion1” tanker which has been stranded in the Mukalla Port (South24, Abdullah Al-Shadli)

They added that the reason behind this is the fears by the concerned parties of evading paying the fines. The sources accuse them of colluding with the trader as shown in not filing any legal case against him till now. 

Despite those risks, Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Fisheries, Bawazeer, believes “there are no pollution dangers threatening the Mukalla Sea” adding that the locally so-called “Mawsim Al-Balda” naturally cleans the coral reefs from tanker’s oil and deposits..

Maritime piracy 

Over the last years, The Maritime piracy operations have disappeared, as the Mukalla Port has not monitored any cases of looting, mugging or blackmailing in the Yemeni borders in general. 

Fouad Taysir Al-Rabbaki, Vice Chairman of the Council of the Arabian Sea Ports Corporation told "South24" that “the spread of piracy activities came after 2005 mostly in the Somali borders”.  According to him, “the suffering lies in the small size of the port and the platforms. However, we allow passing some tankers which are bigger than Platform No. 1 which is (177 m length, less than 30000 tons load, and a submersible not exceeding 9m). The presence of those giant ships constitutes big obstacles against the port”.

However, Al-Rabbaki said that the activities in the “small” Mukalla Port have not changed, adding that it managed to “feed” Yemen during 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The Port of Brum, west of Mukalla, is the future one which will make a qualitative shift for the maritime navigation in Hadramout, thanks to its strategic location. Therefore, Al-Rabbaki believes that the operation of other ports such as Qena, in Shabwa, will deliver a “blow” to Hadramout amid the lack of care and development of  the latter’s ports.

Unsigned international laws

Amid the threats caused by the polluting foreign ships and overfishing, Captain Yaslam Mubarak Bouamr, Director General of the General Authority for Maritime Affairs told "South24": “Our problem is that Yemen didn’t sign on most international laws which give us some powers such as the “Maritime Pollution Law”. 

Naturally, the Mukalla Port has the power to pass some local laws, but this is not possible in light of absence of the Yemeni House of Representatives. Bouamr added that “issuing legislations will replace some international laws”.

The outbreak of the war in 2015 has produced repercussions that have changed the lives of people in North and South. The indirect Houthi economic siege against the Southern governorates has deepened the crisis making people’s situation in those areas worse due to the currency deterioration that caused a hike in all aspects of life. 

Journalist and editor at South24 Center for News and Studies

Photo: Fishermen from Mukalla, Hadramout, November 18, 2021 (South24, Abdullah Al-Shadli)

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