Bahrain MP urges help for fishermen

Fish prices have shot up because fishermen needed to make up for losses they have suffered due to the pandemic

  

Fishermen could have their anti-inflation allowance reinstated, following an urgent proposal presented by an MP.

Ammar Al Mukhtar said it was a “catastrophic call” to suspend the monthly payment, ranging from BD50 to BD100, on the basis that fishermen’s revenues have not been affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

He added that fish prices have shot up because fishermen needed to make up for losses they have suffered due to the pandemic.

“Since the allowances were stopped fish prices have gone up drastically as fishermen needed to make up for lost finances already damaged by Covid-19,” he said.

“It is not like local fish was in demand during the pandemic as people couldn’t afford to buy fish as some had either lost their jobs or saw their businesses suffer.

“In addition, Covid-19 health requirements and hygiene materials and equipment added to the costs that the fishermen had to incur.

“The heat this year has also been unforgiving and the catch has dropped sharply as fish have either migrated or have perished en masse.”

Mr Al Mukhtar submitted his proposal to Parliament Speaker Fouzia Zainal yesterday, calling on the Labour and Social Development Ministry to reinstate the allowances, suspended from last month, with retrospective effect.

The plea has been referred to the services committee for review with the relevant authorities.

“Fishermen are not rich and they are trying to make a living, and this has compounded their woes,” said Mr Al Mukhtar.

“The collapse of one sector will lead more sectors to collapse; stopping the anti-inflation allowance at a time of recovery is clearly a wrong call.

“If the government doesn’t find all the fishermen eligible then it could assess their conditions and reinstate the allowance backdated this month or whenever it finds them eligible.”

The GDN reported last week that hot weather was blamed for a spike in fish prices in the local market.

Rising mercury levels have dissuaded several fishermen from venturing into the sea, while a few who set out say their task has been made tougher with fish diving deeper into the depths to escape the heat.

A resultant shortage of fish has led to the prices of safi, hamour and sheri shooting up in the local market.

The price of shrimps, allowed in the markets after a five-month ban, has also tripled, from BD1 per kilo to BD3.

The GDN also reported that Covid-19 had also drastically affected the workforce as many expat fishermen who had gone home could not return to Bahrain due to travel restrictions.

Another bone of contention, according to many fishermen, is a rule enforced since 2018 by authorities under which only two people are allowed to be on board fishing boats.

In 2018, a trawling ban was introduced in Bahrain after it emerged that the country’s fish stocks had dropped by 90 per cent since 2004.

The ban also included a prohibition on export of 14 species of sea life, including fresh or frozen fish and shrimp, a reduction in the number of fishermen allowed on each dhow or small fishing boat and a training scheme for Bahraini fishermen.

MPs have said in the past that 273 fishermen were affected by the trawling ban decision.

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