‘Blast fishing’ thrives in Libya’s chaos

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A Libyan fishmonger speaks with a customer at the Fish market in Tripoli on August 4, 2018. (AFP)
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A Libyan fishmonger displays the catch of the day at the Fish market in Tripoli on August 4, 2018. Residents of Tripoli's seafront wake up most weekends to loud blasts: fishermen casting dynamite to maximise their catch with impunity and oblivious of the damage they are causing to marine life. / AFP / Mahmud TURKIA
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A Libyan fisherman prepares his net before heading out to sea in the town of Qarabuli on the Mediterranean coast, 60 kilometres (35 miles) east of the capital Tripoli on August 4, 2018. (AFP)
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A Libyan man buys fish from a fishmonger at the Fish market in Tripoli on August 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 August 2018
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‘Blast fishing’ thrives in Libya’s chaos

  • There is still hope as long as some good fishermen respect the trade and go out at night with nets
  • The practice has its critics, including marine biologists, fishermen, and even religious leaders

TRIPOLI: Residents of Tripoli’s seafront wake up most weekends to loud blasts: fishermen using dynamite to maximize their catch, regardless of the damage they are causing to marine life.
Dynamite fishing, or “blast fishing,” has flourished — with impunity — since Libya’s 2011 uprising that left the country awash with weapons and explosives.
The Mediterranean country has since descended into chaos and violence, with two rival administrations struggling to impose the law and a myriad of militias vying for control of its oil wealth.
As a result, protecting fish stock and the environment are not a priority for the authorities, experts and officials say.
Haytham Ali, a newly-married teacher, lives less than 50 meters (yards) from the beach in the capital’s residential suburb of Hay Al-Andalous.
“My wife and I enjoy the peace and quiet of Friday mornings in our garden by the sea, but the explosions... as early as 7 am remind us of all that is wrong in this country,” he said.
Mariam, a 64-year-old widow, said the blasts frighten her grandchildren when they come to visit her home near the water.
“My whole house and my old windows shake with every blast... and I have to reassure my grandchildren that it’s only people fishing, not NATO bombs all over again,” she said, referring to the uprising that was backed by the Western alliance.
Dynamite fishing and the use of explosives without a permit are both officially against the law, but dynamite fishermen appear to be immune.
They even post anonymous videos online of sea water being propelled high into the sky and dozens of dazed or dead fish left behind on the surface.
“We hear (the blasts) but no one can do anything about it,” said Bannour Abu Kahal, head of the fisheries department in Garaboulli, east of Tripoli.

Some marine biologists, fishermen and fishmongers, and even religious leaders have tried to speak out against blast fishing but to no avail.
Using dynamite to catch fish “depletes the fish stock in the sea,” said Mokhtar, a fishmonger in central Tripoli, who declined to give his surname.
“This practice is not correct or healthy for the consumer” because it stuns the fish and shreds its skin, he said.
The explosives, known as “gelatine” in Libya, “kills the fish, the fish roe, larvae and sea plants,” said Fathi Al-Zaytuni, a fishmonger who uses nets for his catch.
The explosive devices used in Libya are mostly home-made and have caused dozens of deaths and injuries, according to media reports.
Lana news agency reported in March that three men from the same family died in a blast in the eastern city of Sirte as they were preparing bombs for blast fishing.

Sheikh Sadek Al-Ghariani, the country’s disputed top religious figure, has also waded into the controversy.
“If this type of fishing is banned by laws that regulate fishing, or if it is prejudicial to man and the environment, then it should not be practiced,” he said in a fatwa, religious edict, issued in 2013.
Abu Kahal, the fishing director in Garaboulli, urged “concerned authorities, especially the coast guard, to do their job and put an end to this kind of fishing.”
On a warm and humid August evening, retired fisherman Abdelrazag Al-Bahri, 72, sat at Tripoli port counting the few fishing boats heading out to sea to catch sardines.
“There is still hope as long as some good fishermen respect the trade” and go out at night to haul a catch the traditional way with nets, he said.
He said traditional fishing in Libya had mostly been the work of Egyptians and Tunisians but they had fled the country, with few Libyans now willing to replace them.


Japanese tidying guru sparks joy with cluttered Americans

Updated 21 January 2019
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Japanese tidying guru sparks joy with cluttered Americans

  • Kondo's book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up," has earned a cult following since its publication in the United States in 2014
  • "I love mess," Kondo proclaims in her Netflix show, which sees her visit American homes to implement her trademarked "KonMari" method

WASHINGTON: After experiencing homelessness in 2011, Sarah Eby found herself constantly collecting things so she would never again feel she had nothing to call her own.
"When I moved into my apartment, it just felt empty," the mother-of-one from Arvada, Colorado told AFP. "I got everything I could to try and make it feel like I had a home."
But as Eby moved house over the years, the clutter built up. Now, inspired by the Japanese home organizing guru Marie Kondo, the 27-year-old says she has banished the chaos for good.
And she's hardly the only one.
Kondo is small in stature, but her tidying philosophy has reached stratospheric heights.
Her book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up," has earned a cult following since its publication in the United States in 2014, with millions adopting her suggestions for a neater, happier existence.
But it is the 34-year-old's new Netflix show, "Tidying up with Marie Kondo" -- released on New Year's Day, when everyone is keen to reinvent themselves and motivated by their resolutions -- that has everyone talking.
"I love mess," Kondo proclaims in the show, which sees her visit American homes -- flanked by her interpreter -- to implement her trademarked "KonMari" method.
The idea is simple: gather your things one Kondo-defined category at a time and go through them one by one, keeping only those that "spark joy," and giving them a place in your home.
As for the rest, a KonMari convert thanks his or her used items and tags them for donation or the garbage pail.
At the end, most converts find they have far fewer possessions, and a happier outlook.
"I think it plays an integral role with my relationship to things," said Eby, who watched one episode of the show before diving into the book.
"I was never messy or unclean or untidy -- I just had too many things. And so the part that I connected with most would be the letting go of the things that don't bring me joy."
Almost overnight, Kondo has emerged as a cultural icon -- she is the subject of countless viral tweets and memes, and a flurry of think pieces unpacking the show in surprising, somewhat disconcerting depth.
Her method however is not without controversy: advice to donate old books has infuriated bibliophiles on social media.
But for Den Kovacs, a video games journalist and KonMari disciple, Kondo -- with her gentle, judgment-free encouragement -- is a welcome antidote to harsh reality TV, not to mention American chaos.
"People really do feel ... chaotic, they feel overwhelmed," said the 23-year-old from Livonia, Michigan.
"So when they see someone who comes in, and she's like, 'I can fix this! We got this!' ... people are like 'Yes, I need this in my life.'"
Social media users have already reported a "Kondo effect" at local thrift stores, with more goods pouring in for resale -- although a national spokesperson for Goodwill told AFP it is "too soon to tell."
And as viral trends go, KonMari-mania is one that could actually be good for people: according to a 2016 study, too much clutter can be bad news for wellbeing.
"The more clutter you have ... the less your sense of home, the less your sense of life satisfaction," explained DePaul University psychologist Joseph Ferrari, a co-author of the study.
"That's contrary to what people might think. They think that you have to have more, and people with abundance are happier people. No."
Kondo's fans are earnestly reporting the benefits of going clutter-free.
"It feels really good," says Kovacs, who explored other tidying approaches, but found KonMari to be the most effective.
"I really decluttered my mind. It felt like I had less stress, less to focus on ... I could focus on myself."
Meanwhile, for Olguyne Fernandez-Fraga, a 27-year-old nutritionist from Miami, Kondo has boosted her social life.
"Before it would be like 'Oh, can we invite so and so over?', and it was like 'No, look at the house'," Fernandez-Fraga explained.
"Whereas now, it's like yeah, they could come in the next 10 minutes if they want to."
And in the digital age, it turns out even email inboxes and social media friends can be "KonMaried."
"I just went down the (Facebook) list and asked myself, 'Does this person spark joy?'" Kovacs explained.
"As soon as you start to ask that about someone, you suddenly realize the people that add value to you," he said.
"You certainly appreciate them a lot more than you did before."