Where does this sector stand today and what are the potential means to secure its protection and development?
Number of Boats and Fishermen
There are 3000 fishing boats in Lebanon, each ranging between 7 to 12 meters in length. Although all boats are suited to operate, only 60% are licensed while the remaining hit the water without permission. These boats are distributed over 44 ports, 11 of which have storage rooms. 4575 fishermen work on these boats, a number that jumps up to 10,000 during fishing seasons.
Size of the Fish Market
Around 6000 tons of fish are caught annually by fishing in addition to 1000 tons through aquaculture, particularly in the Al-Assi basin and the Al-Qaraoun Lake. As for imports, Lebanon buys from abroad 4000 tons of fresh or chilled fish and 10 000 tons of frozen fish.
The Lebanese government has devised a plan to improve the status of fisherman and preserve the country’s fish resources through the following:
- Banning the fishing and sale of sardines.
- Banning the use of some fishing tools like nets, traps and weirs.
- Banning fishing during June, July and August- the typical 3 months of the year for fish reproduction- and granting the fishermen USD 14.7 million as compensation for their unemployment during the prohibition period.
- Subjecting fishermen to the provisions of the National Social Security Fund, with their income set at 150% of the minimum wage, i.e. around USD 675 currently and the subscription fee set at 15%, i.e. around USD 100. The cost of subjecting fishermen to the NSSF is estimated at LBP 4.8 billion annually.
- Providing facilitated loans to fishermen.
- Promoting the supervision of the industry by buying regular boats and hiring guards in all the ports.
- Replacing tight and narrow nets at the cost of USD 3 million.
- Expanding the scope of fishing not exceeding 3 nautical miles currently in order to increase the catch of fish.
- Preventing water pollution in order to preserve the jeopardized species.
- Modernizing the laws and legislations related to marine fishing.
The above plan is ambitious and might save Lebanon’s fish resources and pump more income into the hands of fishermen, but the gist remains in how and when the government will put it in action.