‘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.


Distracted biking: Dutch ban for cyclists using mobile phones

Updated 3 min 6 sec ago
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Distracted biking: Dutch ban for cyclists using mobile phones

  • The government is to ban the use of all but hands-free devices while cycling
  • Cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands, where bikes outnumber people
THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The sight of cyclists hurtling along while glued to their smartphones is a common one in the bike-mad Netherlands, but it will soon be illegal.
With a growing number of accidents involving phones and bikes, the government is to ban the use of all but hands-free devices while cycling.
“It is forbidden to use a mobile electronic device while driving any vehicle (including a bicycle),” says the draft law announced by Transport Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen late Tuesday.
The bike law will take effect from July next year.
Car and lorry drivers are already banned from using mobiles at the wheel unless they are in hands-free mode, with a maximum fine of €230 ($260), but the new law specifically mentions bikes.
The fine is likely to be the same for cyclists but the government is awaiting the result of a public consultation, Nieuwenhuizen said.
“It’s just as dangerous on a bike and on all types of vehicles as it is in a car,” she said. “The fact is that when you are on the road you have to pay full attention and not send messages or do other things on the phone.”
Michael Kulkens, who has campaigned for a ban since his 13-year-old son Tommy-Boy was killed in a bike accident while looking at a phone in 2015, welcomed the change in the law.
“I had to stop my car at the side of the road and the tears welled up in my eyes when I heard on the radio that the ban on the bike is coming,” De Telegraaf newspaper quoted him as saying.
“In my mind, I said: ‘We did it Tommy-Boy. We did it.’”
Cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands, where bikes outnumber people, with an estimated nearly 23 million cycles for some 17 million people.
But while it boasts outstanding infrastructure for cyclists across its flat landscape, the use of mobile phones is a growing hazard, with a smartphone involved in one in five bike accidents involving young people, according to the Dutch Road Safety organization.
Nelly Vollebregt, president of the Dutch road accident victims association, who is herself in a wheelchair after a bike accident caused by a motorist who was looking at a phone, said that 25 percent of the 613 people who died on Dutch roads last year were killed by distractions.
Last year the Dutch town of Bodegraven launched a trial of foot-level traffic lights for pedestrians to prevent them straying into roads or cycle lanes while glued to their mobile screens.