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Lebanese Diver 'Threatened with Death' for Calling Out Dynamite Fishermen; 'The Situation is Worsening'

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SIDON, Lebanon -- Replying to the fishermen's denial that they were using dynamite to fish, Lebanese Professional Divers' Association president Mohammad Sareji said he was "threatened with death" by one of the fishermen because he called for putting an end for this method.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Sareji noted that "tons of fish that were killed with dynamite were found last week and confiscated by the Agriculture Ministry."

He added that the "maritime wealth was threatened by extinction due to excessive fishing by using dynamite."

Fishermen in Sarafand have denied allegations they are using dynamite to fish and are polluting the sea.

The fishermen held a massive demonstration at the port of Sarafand Wednesday to deny claims made earlier in the week by the Lebanese Professional Divers' Association, insisting their adherence to laws prohibiting the use of explosives in the sea.

MP Abdel-Majid Saleh from the Liberation and Development bloc was on hand for the demonstration, and urged the government to provide assistance to the area's fishermen by enrolling them in the National Social Security Fund.

South Lebanon Fishermen's Union Secretary Ali Badran, also present at the protest, said Agriculture Minister Talal Sahili "allowed fishermen to use compressors for fishing, which do not threaten the marine environment or citizens' safety."

"Sahili promised to give us permits to use these compressors," Badran added. "This news raised concerns for some people, who accused us of using dynamite."

The secretary further said that "the pictures shown during the association's news conference date from the early 1990s."

Badran insisted Sarafand's fishermen had stopped using dynamite to catch fish after strict measures were adopted by authorities to end the practice.

He also called on the government to determine the fate of fisherman Mohammad Farran. Farran's boat was discovered riddled with bullets at sea in October 2005.

Sareji and the Union leader for the Khaizaran coast Ali Kawtharani held a joint news conference on Monday in Sidon to condemn the alleged tossing of dynamite as a fishing method.

Sareji noted that "the wealth of marine life is threatened with extinction due to the random and criminal use of sticks of dynamite in the water."

He added that "although the association has called on security forces and the concerned authorities to protect the marine environment, the situation is worsening."

The two environmentalists further alleged the illegal use of dynamite had also increased along the shores of Naqoura, Tyre, Adloun, Sarafand, Sidon, Jiyye, Damour, Tripoli, Mina and Abdeh.

Sareji urged officials to take "immediate measures to protect our beaches from the smuggling of explosives in order to save what remained of marine life," warning that the association would adopt "escalatory measures" if their demands were not met.

Kawtharani said the use of dynamite threatened the safety of citizens, adding: "People who can detonate dynamite in the sea are able to place explosives under a car or in a building."


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