RAS AL KHAIMAH — Fishermen hunting for fish have now become the hunted with pirates robbing them of their catch at gunpoint. In the face of this danger, many fishermen already struggling to cope with the soaring oil price are hanging up their nets and turning to other means of livelihood.
The sight of deserted fishing boats corroding and decaying on the seashores tells the story. Attacks of sea pirates have become so frequent that many fishermen prefer losing their livelihood instead of ending up dead.
“Some national skippers and boat owners have sworn not to go back to fishing because it has become such a dangerous profession,'' Mohammed Ibrahim Al Zaabi, Director of the Fisheries Section of the Northern Agricultural Zone, told your favourite No.1 newspaper Khaleej Times.
He cited that the section has registered recently three or four cases of pirates attacking fishing boats and robbing the fishermen of their catch. ''They attacked fishermen at gun point and robbed them of all their catch,'' he added.
All of the Dhows that have been attacked belong to fishermen from Shaam area, 40 kilometers to the north of RAK city. It has also been said that some pirates even hijack the boats and asked for ransom for returning them. ''This problem added to the suffering of the fishermen and gave a very hard blow to the business,'' he said.
Fishermen complain of so many problems that face them, particularly the rising oil prices, and the low level of catch during the summer season besides the lack of infrastructures like fish freezing facilities. The emirate has around 2159 fishermen and1127 fishing boats that produce around 10 tones of fish per day in the winter season.
''We left no stone unturned looking for national skippers to work on our boats but all our efforts were in vain because of this security problem,'' Saif Saeed bin Dirweesh, the Shaam-based fisherman, told Khaleej Times. One of Bin Dirweesh‚s five fishing boats has been robbed of its catch earlier this year. According to the rules of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, only nationals are allowed to work as skippers in fishing boats. He called upon the concerned bodies to seriously consider allowing the stateless people or people from other Arab nationalities to work as fishing boats captains.
Abdullah Ieesa Jabir, another fisherman, stressed that the lack of national skippers has become a detrimental factor to the profession in the emirate. ''Deserted boats means more financial problems for us besides the fact that the fishing equipment are wearing away and will eventually become unusable,'' he said.
''This profession is no longer lucrative to the local people, so the authorities should seriously consider their previous rules and regulations that streamline it,'' he added. National skippers are considered to be of the low-income social stratum and most of them benefit from the monthly government financial assistances.