Fishing, in numbers

Bahrain and the sea

People can’t really measure the impact of the fishing industry’s destruction in this country because they don’t particularly know the numbers, nor – most probably – do they have a direct contact with those affected to actually know the levels involved.

Enter a report released today by the Oxford Business Group to put things in perspective:

Bahrain is still a net exporter of seafood, with the overseas trade worth an estimated $1.35m in 2005, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s International Trade Centre (ITC). However, this was well down on the $13m export total for the year before, a direct result of the collapse of shrimp stocks in the waters around the kingdom. Shrimp and shellfish exports fell from $11m in 2004 to just $95,000 in just 12 months, ITC figures showed.

One of the main threats to Bahrain’s shrinking fish stocks is the fall out from expansion, both of the economy and of the country itself. Dredging to deepen shipping access routes around Bahrain’s islands and reclamation projects to extend the amount of waterfront land available for development have affected some of the ecosystem.

Does it make sense now? Do you see how 4,000 fishermen’s families are suffering because of this desperate situation?

Help is at hand, though, but only because of the local press, Al-Wasat Newspaper specifically, highlighting these issues. Since they first published the picture of those hundreds of dead fish washed up on the shores of Tubli bay and subsequently followed up on that issue, did the government actually wake up and try to do something about this devastating situation.

Now, as the OBG report states, the government is considering compensating those fishermen whose livelihood has been affected by the environmental impact of dredging, development and waste treatment by the end of this year. They are – thankfully – also considering creating new artificial reefs to encourage fish to breed and hopefully compensate those that have been driven from what was a very rich environment in Tubli bay.

Let us also hope that with the concerted combined efforts of the press and the environmentalists to highlight the degradation of the environment and present their findings in an appropriate way so that people understand the impending danger in a tangible way and for us to then adopt these issues at a grass roots level which will definitely force the government and law makers to put in place legislation and plans to rescue our rather limited environment.

  • ash
    20 July 2007

    Interesting article, Mahmood. Unfortunately it’s much the same the world over these days. I come from a little fishing town in Cornwall, a peninsula county that historically has had a hugely important fishing industry and related culture. These days many independent fishermen have had to find other jobs, many of the local fleets have disappeared, and many little fishing harbours now have only one or two boats still operating from them. Industrial scale fishing has ruined what was once not just a local economy but an entire culture.

    It’s really sad that this sort of thing is happening in Bahrain too.

  • ammar456
    22 July 2007

    Wow 😯

    That’s pretty scary. I knew what we were doing was adversely affecting the fishing sectors, etc, but to this extent? That’s pretty bad. Compared to before I guess our local fishing sector is non-existent

  • Yvonne Dettwyler
    24 July 2007

    The shelfs aroud Martinique (Fr.Caribbean) fished empty. Only deep sea fishing would provide islanders with fresh fish. Too expensve it seems. Fresh fish flown in from Paris. There really is no end to our greed.

  • Ian
    24 July 2007

    I remember a time when there was a shrimp freezing factory in Mina Sulman. It processed and froze Bahraini shrimps for export. I wonder what happened to it and when it closed down. It was definitely around in the mid to late 70’s.

  • Muneera Obaidli
    25 July 2007

    I really commend you on bringing up this very important environmental issue. Bahrain is really behind environmentally. I think there should be a campaign to create environmental awareness and pride in preserving our environment. Small steps if taken by individuals on a daily basis can have an enormous impact. Recycling paper, plastic, glasss and aluminium from your trash is an easy step (most people in Bahrain just have to tell the maid to do it). Better yet, teach your children the importance of caring for the environment and mabye their children will grow up in a cleaner and greaner Bahrain.

    One thing that I found very interesting here in France; Disposable plastic bags have been banned from supermarkets (you have to use the reusable ones). Can you imagine the impact a small change like this can have on the environment in the long run? It actually makes things easier for the consumer as well, just take one or two large carry bags (available for sale at the supermarkets) with you, put your grocceries in them and you have less trips to make from the car to the kitchen once you get home. Even the supermarkets benefit, they save thousands of BDs a year in plastic bags! 🙂

  • mahmood
    25 July 2007

    and that’s exactly what Al-Osra have started doing in Bahrain actually, just a few days ago they made these re-usable bags available at the check-out for 1.5 and 2.5 BD. They still have the guy packing in “normal” plastic bags, but if you buy those then of course they will pack in the re-usable ones.

    My wife used to take recyclable material to Awali every weekend since she stepped food on the island, sadly, the recycling “pods” have disappeared and we don’t know where else to recycle our refuse to. The bins that used to be available at Al-Osra have disappeared too, and when they were there, people used to use them as any rubbish tip…. so you’re absolutely right Muneera, education is an absolute necessity in protecting our environment. Friends of the Earth here are doing their part, but I suspect they’re not getting as much support as they should get, and see where we ended up: Tubli Bay all but destroyed.

    Everyone one of us has a part to play, and even if we play a very small minute part, it all eventually adds up.

  • Muneera Obaidli
    25 July 2007

    There is a company that can come and install recycling bins in your area. I don’t have their details with me now, but I will get it for you if you wish. They collect at a scheduled time each week.

    I guess if people bought the reusable bags from Alosra and took them to whichever supermarkdet they shop from it would make a statement. Maybe then they will follow Alosra’s lead and provide their own reusables.

    Good on Alosra, they have been on the forefront of the environmental movement for a while now. They were even the first large supermarket to stock organically grown produce. I don’t know if their goal was to create biodiversity or just pure business sense, but good on them nonetheless!

  • mahmood
    26 July 2007

    I’m game. I’m sure I can convince my neighbours to use them too.

    BMMI has been good, as you said, they appear to be responsive to environmental concerns; whether that is due to business acumen or genuine regard for the environment is too early to decide, but even if it is a mixture of both I don’t find any fault in that motivation. The issue is that they have installed the recycling bins at their supermarket even though they were vandalised and used as “normal” rubbish bins. I’m not sure if they are still there and are in use, I should find out.

No stranger to the sword