by Marwa Yahya
CAIRO, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Incidents of detaining Egyptian fishermen by some Arab and African countries around the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea are common recently which require the government's intervention for their release.
"It was a horrible experience to stay in detention for almost two months," said Adel Omran, a 48-year old fisherman who was a crew member of a boat that was seized at the border with Yemen in 2020.
"I planned to stay for three days in the water to catch more quantities but one of our two boats was broken near the prohibited areas," Omran told Xinhua, adding that fishing is about patience and seizing opportunities.
"Our fish have been thrown into the sea, and we have been investigated one by one for long hours," he said.
Such incidents raised questions about the reasons behind fishermen's entering the banned international water in a country that is surrounded by the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and rich with other water resources like the Nile River and several lakes.
"Some Egyptian fishermen agreed with their peers in the neighboring countries to work together and share the profits in violation of these countries' rules," said Khalid Husseiny, former chairman of General Authority for Fish Resources Development.
Poaching and lack of fish in some seasons in the two seas lead the fishermen in Egypt to seek illegal means for money, Husseiny said, adding that the fishermen also might lose their way back and enter the water borders of other countries.
Eritrea has detained nearly 120 fishermen and seized their ships at the beginning of February. Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called for a quick release of the detainees during a phone call on Feb. 3 with his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh.
This comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia freed 35 fishermen who entered its territorial water and fished illegally. In December 2020, Tunisia seized three Egyptian boats carrying dozens of fishermen near its borders.
Egypt's ministry of emigration has often warned against the practice and called on the fishermen to refrain from breaching the territorial rules in respect for other countries' sovereignty and avoid being arrested.
Bakry Abouel-Hassan, head of the Fishermen Syndicate in Suez Province, said Egyptian piscators have the right for fishing in the international water, but sometimes they are dragged into the territorial water of the neighboring countries due to bad weather.
He explained that the output of the waters in Egypt has become very poor because of pollution which is a result of ships wastes and ballast water discharges in the Suez Canal and Gulf to maintain the balance of containers without supervision though the maritime law in Egypt obligates the ships to discharge its trash in certain tanks.
In addition, some tourist villages and factories get rid of its rubbish in the sea, which extremely harms the fish output, he said.
"Egypt pays much attention now to enhance the fishing technologies to stop the practices of over-fishing, and has worked on cleaning and expanding the lakes," Abouel-Hassan said.
Describing it as was "a dream for fishermen," he praised Egypt's plan to establish a 100-ship fishing fleet equipped with modern technologies.
He expected Egypt in the coming two years will achieve self-sufficiency of fish as the country has opened large fisheries projects and developed the lakes.
In 2020, Egypt produced 2 million tons of fish, with a value of about 3 billion U.S. dollars, of which 80 percent was produced through fish-farming, according to official statistics.
Egypt's current production of fish, in general, secures 85 percent of its needs, the statistics added.
Fish-farming in Egypt has been growing over the past few years. One of the most prominent project was inaugurated in 2017 near Ghalioun Lake in the Delta Kafr Al-Sheikh province, with an estimated annual production capacity of 5 million kg of fish and shrimps.
On Jan. 27, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated the Al-Fayrouz fish-farming project located east of Port Said province. It is planned to include 5,908 tanks with an annual production of 13,000 tons. Enditem