30 Jun 2014 21:00
Lebanon's coastline has been a vital part of sustaining lives for thousands of years. However, in recent years, it has become unproductive as a means of subsistence due to privatization and pollution. Local fishermen of many different religions and backgrounds still attempt to scrape a living despite the depleted fish sources and pressure to move away by big business and government.
The Daliyeh, one of the last public spaces left in Beirut, contains the Daliyeh Marina, a small but fully working fishing port which provides a work base for an estimated 60-70 fisherman. The marina is under serious threat of permanent destruction due a hotel project that is due to be built on the Daliyeh rock. The project is funded by the Hariri family, one of the most economically and politically powerful families in Lebanon. The hotel would result in a significant loss to the fishermen and their families who have been working in this area their whole lives. The proposed project would also destroy one of the last places that the local Lebanese can use as a beach for leisure.
The loss of the marina isn't the only pressing issue that is affecting the livelihoods of these men and the families they support. Most of Lebanon's solid waste is deposited in landfills which border the coast, slowly leaking pollution into the ocean. Many fishermen admit that they sometimes purposely salvage large pieces of metal to sell as scrap. The sewers also deposit straight into the Mediterranean, usually completely untreated and containing industrial waste from factories.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems is overfishing. The use of illegal nets, which are used even during the spawning seasons, are having a devastating effect on the fish population, threatening to put many fisherman out of work. Each fishing community seems to have a different viewpoint on managing overfishing in Lebanon; any rules in place are not strictly enforced. Illegal fishing is a product of desperation due to the hardship these fishermen are facing as they continue to work in what appears to be a doomed profession. They often earn as little as $30 US Dollars a day which means that what they catch is often what they and their families eat. Many of the fishermen have no training or skills in any other potential occupation, so they will press on despite the many problems they face. “Fishing is all I know”, Says Hamzi Khalil, 63, “We fish, we eat. We don’t fish – we don’t eat.”