April 28 - Bahrain's fishing industry is suffering a growing rift between its local fishermen and expat labourers who, it's claimed, are undercutting them by overfishing local stocks. David Pollard reports.
It's almost as old as time. Fishermen prepare to go to sea. Just under the surface of this scene in the Bahrain port of Muharraq, there is tension. Local boats have fished these waters for generations. Now, skippers like Jassim say cheap foreign labour market is stealing their livelihood. (sSOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LOCAL FISHERMEN FROM MUHARRAQ (EAST OF CAPITAL MANAMA), JASSIM HAMAD, saying: "Here in shallow water you can't catch anything because the Bangladeshi fishermen have no fixed time and are working round the clock to catch fish and don't understand which are small fish and which are big fish. They are always on the go". Locals claims that Bangladeshi and other Asian fishermen also take too many fish out of the sea. Overfishing is exhausting fish stocks, says skipper Mohammed Shabib, and causing new dangers. (SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) LOCAL FISHER MAN FROM MUHARRAQ, MOHAMMED SHABIB NAEEMI, saying: "We are forced to go to the deeper ocean on the edges close to the borders of Iran, Emarati, outside the border of Bahrain. We put our lives at risk on our boats. This boat here is worth more than 70 or 80 thousand bahraini dinars. Tomorrow the pirates may steal it". Adding to the rancour, fish merchants too have their own grievance. At this market, it's tradition that counts - and value for money. But fish sellers like Hussain say the consumer's looking for a different experience. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LOCAL FISH SELLER, HUSSAIN ALI MURAD, saying: ''The market here isn't as good as it first was, because some of the roads are closed, and there are fish markets inside shopping malls. People say why should we come here when we can go to an airconditioned shop in the mall? A clean place instead of getting dirty here, or being in a smelly place. They'd rather go to a clean, airconditioned place and buy from there". Squabbles between fishing boats is nothing new. The local fishermen are calling for the government to regulate catches, and to ask their foreign rivals to quit. Compensation, they say, could be paid for the catches left behind.