“Grim fishing fairy tale we can write a happy ending”

Once upon a time, Mustapha Shaalan would go out to sea and haul in 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of fish in the blink of an eye. Today he is lucky if he reels in one or two kilos on a good day. Fishermen were rich and could make a very good living in the Mediterranean waters off the 220-kilometer-long (136-mile-long) Lebanese coast.

lebanon-fisherman-bg“The sea back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s was thick with fish and we were the envy of the town. We earned 500 dollars a week and thought the good times would never end. Fishermen over fished, illegal and destructive practice of dynamite or blast fishing, spear fishing and compressor fishing, has irreversibly damaged the marine ecosystem off the coast of Lebanon. Sewage is also dumped at sea along with heavy metals from factories, including copper, zinc and vanadium a metallic chemical.

In addition, greedy developers have been invading the coastline and paying no heed to the environmental impact. Many species, including red mullet, grouper and small barracudas are facing extinction in Lebanon’s waters, primarily because of bad fishing practices over the years.

This should be a warning to all of us now.

Sustainability and under fishing is not an option-it is a necessity if we do not want this scenario repeated over and over again around the world. Our coastal waters from Maine to Florida through out the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific coastal areas from Hawaii to Alaska are depleted, polluted with plastic and over fished and acidifying.

For 10 years fishermen have been sounding the alarm, but no one is listening. The Mediterranean sea bed in Lebanon is in ruin. “We are destroying our sea, completely and totally,” said Imad Saoud, an aquatic scientist at American University of Beirut. “And the problem is that the people who benefit the most from the sea — the fishermen are the people destroying it the most.”

Bariche said he has been working directly with fishermen to convince them to create marine reserves or protected areas or risk losing their livelihood. “We need to convince them that these reserves are for their own good, otherwise there will soon be nothing left to fish,” he said. “They either starve or go on using illegal practices to fish.”

We can write a happy ending  and a new beginning to the fishing practices around the world.


Excerpts and Image courtesy of



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