With a coastline of 230 km, the sea in Lebanon was once a great source of income for fisherman; this is not the case today. Many factors have contributed to the depletion of the marine life along the Lebanese coast. The most serious problem according to many fishermen is the use of the fishing net called purse seine or jaroufi in Arabic. The problem with this net is that while catching fish, it kills the younger ones, resulting in a decrease in fish stock levels.
According to the President of Sidon Fishermen’s Union Hajj Marouf Ali Bawjeh, the government has not done anything to regulate net use. “A couple years ago there was an agreement with the Ministry (of Agriculture) that the people using the purse seine nets would get rid of them and the Ministry would pay them reparations so they could buy boats and nets. But it didn’t work. The government changed and a new minister came and the agreement didn’t go through, he explained.
According to Greenpeace, illegal or unregulated fishing practices, destruction of habitats and pollution are the main causes that have depleted fish stock levels in Lebanon. The following are the harmful fishing techniques used by local fishermen:
- Inadequate use of traditional nets – The scarcity of fish and high demand for fish have led fishermen to use large nets with smaller mesh sizes (the holes of the nets) which catch many small sized fish. Another type of net that has caused significance damage is the fixed net, a net barrier that stretches for hundred of meters. Because of the large area they cover and small mesh sizes, fixed nets trap all types of fish species – wanted and unwanted.
- Spearfishing – Even though it is illegal, spearfishing is commonly used by scuba divers. This technique threatens middle-sized fish. Although the impact is not known, it is thought to be high.
- Blastfishing – Using dynamite or other explosive devices to kill fish. This technique kills all types of marine creatures and also damages fish habitats.
- Poison – The use of pesticides to hunt fish has been introduced into Lebanon a few decades ago. Not only does this kill all types of fish. It also pollutes the environment. Fortunately, this practice is not widespread.
Pollution has had dire consequences on the fish stock levels in both the sea and rivers in Lebanon. Factories andmunicipalities have dumped their waste into the freshwater rivers. Power plants have discharged their waste in the sea and the major garbage mountain along the coast of Sidon has also had severe consequences on maritime resources in the area. All these sources of pollution and many more have affected the fishery sector in one way or another (either damaging fish habitats or directly killing fish).
In addition to all these problems there is no adequate legal framework to regulate the fishery sector. Lebanon only has onefishing law that was passed 87 years ago in 1927. Experts have requested a revision of the existing law and the adoption of new regulations; however, the many Lebanese governments over the years have done nothing to address this issue.