Aqaba struggles to strike balance between fishermen livelihoods, preserving marine life

Fishermen are seen in the Gulf of Aqaba, on November 23, 2018. (Photo: shutterstock)
AMMAN — The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) has decided to extend the cessation of fishing decision for a period of 60 days, as of Wednesday, sparking anger and resentment among Jordan’s fishermen.اضافة اعلان

"This decision will have a great negative impact on almost all fisherman,” said Mahmoud Ayyad, a fisherman, in an interview with Jordan News.

"Many of the fishermen are youth who need to work to get money,” he added. “This is their only job and they cannot live without it. We have been suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic and now we have to work to compensate."

"This is not the right time for this decision," he said. "They could have limited the space given for us for fishing, but not prevent us from fishing altogether. Most of my colleagues are not happy with this decision and they have called for an urgent meeting to see what they can do."

Ayyad claimed that "nearby towns just like Taba and Eilat, for example, prevent fisherman sometimes from fishing, but that happens for approximately two months only; not more than that. They determine the period in advance and they do not extend the time once again, because they know that the decision will not be satisfying for fisherman."

A source from inside ASEZA told Jordan News that "a meeting was held today at the authority with the fishermen to discuss the dimensions and impacts of the decision and to try to find a mutually satisfactory decision."

"We tried to compensate the fishermen for the last two months by giving them JD400 per month," the source said. "We will be doing the same thing for the next two months too."

The ban started on April 4, in an attempt to preserve Aqaba’s marine life.

The source described the fragile balancing act ASEZA maintains between its fishermen trying to make a living and Aqaba’s marine life.

"We do not want them to lose. The thing is that we have to pay more attention to the wildlife,” the source added. “We in Aqaba have rare and special species of fish and it is our role to protect them and make them grow and reproduce.”

Bader Yasin, president of the Fishermen's Association, explained to Jordan News that "fisheries’ advisers from different countries have previously visited Aqaba and advised us not to fish during the period between January and April and in shallow areas only."

"Jordanian authorities have prevented us from fishing in June. You cannot imagine how bad this decision was: fishermen wait for June to fish as it is the best month for fishing," Yasin said.

"Our conditions are really bad because of the pandemic, and we did not expect that they will be even worse and we will be prevented from fishing."

Yasin claimed that "only 94 fishermen out of 221 received compensation while the others suffer from lack of money."

"We were allowed to fish just for two days in the beginning of this month and then the authorities decided to extend the period of banning fishing. No one had expected this decision and we can say it is a shock for all,” he said.

"We had a meeting with ASEZA this morning, and they have promised us to review the decision, but these are all just promises, let us wait and see what will happen."

The decision, according to a previous statement issued by the authority, was made for the purpose of preserving the fish resources in the Gulf of Aqaba and increasing their reproduction, which will be reflected in the availability of suitable quantities of fish for fishing.

The statement also indicated that the decision was also based on the instructions regulating fishing and aquaculture in the Gulf of Aqaba No. (G/1) for the year 2020 and its annexes, and for the purposes of protecting the marine environment and fisheries in the Gulf.

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