Beirut, Lebanon – For thousands of years, Lebanon’s coastline has been a vital source of sustenance for local residents. But privatisation and pollution have now made it increasingly difficult to scrape by on catches from the Mediterranean Sea.
But fishermen still head out into the local waters, attempting to make a living despite depleted fish sources and pressure to move away. “Fishing is all I know,” said Hamzi Khalil, 63, a fisherman from Beirut. “We fish, we eat. We don’t fish, we don’t eat.”
Daliyeh, one of the last public spaces in Beirut, contains Daliyeh Marina, a small but working fishing port which provides a base for an estimated 60-70 fishermen. The marina is under serious threat of permanent destruction due to a hotel project being planned for the area.
But the loss of the marina is not the only pressing issue affecting Lebanon’s fishing industry, which employs approximately 10,000 fishermen during peak seasons.
Most of Lebanon’s solid waste is deposited in landfills bordering the coast, and pollution is slowly leaking into the ocean, according to Lebanese group Greenline. Sewers also deposit straight into the Mediterranean; usually untreated, this wastewater sometimes contains industrial waste from factories. Greenline reported that much of the industrial waste dumped into the sea is not treated past the first-degree treatment level; international law requires that waste be treated to the fourth degree before disposal.
The use of illegal nets, which trap all size of fish, and a lack of regulations on fishing levels, have also had a devastating effect on the fish population, according to local fishermen.
Khaled Sleit is the manager of Jal al-Baher, a fishing marina in Beirut. Al-Baher told Al Jazeera that fishermen at Daliyeh marina do not throw back smaller fish, thus hurting the fish populations. “Overfishing is the main reason in my opinion [for the shortage of fish],” he said. “They are keeping the small and the big, they don’t throw the small ones back.”