A Risk Ridden Life [Archives:2001/21/Reportage]

May 21 2001

Yasser M. Ahmad
Yemen Times
F rom time immemorial the sea has been a source of living for many people. It has been a source of inspiration too, for poets and literary men. When it bestows favors, it gives with no limitations. However, when it becomes furious, it shows no mercy or leniency.
Sea life is not easy. Rather it is a hard and hazardous field. It needs strong, diligent, shrewd and skilled people. In Hodeidah, fishermen spend best part of their lives in the sea. It is everything for them. It is their source of living, their companion and at times their enemy as well. Some of these fishermen have spent more than 40 years in the sea. These people have faced and learned a lot from the sea. They have become a wealthy source of information and prudence.
Yemen is distinguished by its long coastline. The number of fishermen is also very big. However, they suffer from hard living conditions. Their limited and weak resources make things worse and complicated. Sometimes voyages become very hazardous and risky. However, they can do nothing but accept the challenge. Because there is no lovelier venture than the life of the sea.
Fishermen in Hodeidah are the focus of this report. Fishermen are leading a life of misfortune mainly because of the hard economic conditions. They face many ordeals including the fierceness of the sea and their limited resources. When asked about the sea life, some said “Sea life is difficult, but the living conditions are more difficult.” Others commented by saying “Sea life is difficult, but interesting and beautiful. We forget its troubles the time we reach the coast.” Others say “You have to be very careful when dealing with the sea. It is cunning.”
However, all of them expressed their fears due to some notorious elements that abuse the sea wealth. They emphasized that the sea is the only resource of their living and if it is abused they could hardly earn a living for them and their families.
Sami Zuhair Mohammed Abdullah, Khakha, Hodeidah, student in the Educational College Chemistry Department, is also working as a fisherman to earn a living. He has a boat that costs YR350,000. However, it has broken down and he could not fix it due to his limited resources. He said “This boat used to be the source of living of my family and other families as well. However, now it has become too difficult for me to obtain a living.”Another fisherman describing the hazard of the sea said “He who sets out in the sea is lost, and he who comes out of it is alive.” He revealed that there are some fishermen, whose boats are primitively equipped, face lots of difficulties and troubles. They may spend two to three weeks on fishing mainly depending upon the facilities available; food and fuel for the boat.
Ali Abdullah Ismail, fisherman said “He who sets out in the sea does not fear drowning.” He said “We realize the dangers of the sea. However, we are forced to do so by the challenges of life. How lucky you are in your fishing depends mainly on the weather, fishermen, and the kind of equipment you have. If there are no winds and there are skilled fishermen with you, you will be able to get generous fish catch. However, strong winds and naive fishermen may result in a tragic end in the sea. Fishermen have special techniques to know where fish concentrate. Fishermen also have special ways to know good fishing places. About the problems they face, sometimes boats may get into the coasts of some other countries. They also face problems of scant supply.”

Abdulkarim AbdulKader, fisherman, emphasized that fishing life must be well managed. “This will ensure good marketing and consequently yield good income for fishermen. Fishermen are doing their best to fish. However, if the administration is bad, all the efforts of fishermen will go with the wind. Marketing in our country is practiced through outdated and primitive techniques. There are some brokers who are controlling fish markets at the coasts. These people buy fish from fishermen for nominal and cheap prices. They take advantage of these poor fishermen. This is not fair. Marketing fish should be based on a scientific practice. It is a wealth that should not be wasted.”He also asserted the necessity of setting up medical units for sailors who suffer from many diseases. He mentioned a proverb which says “Fruits of water go to the water and at the end you turn out blind.” meaning there are no benefits from the sea and finally you come to suffer from blindness due to salty sea water. Besides, fishermen are exposed to ultraviolet rays of the sun which are reflected from the surface of the water. These rays affect some of the fishermen’s eyes, he added. Thus, it is of prime importance to give sailors proper health care, he concluded.
Ahmad Ali al-Rukabi, fisherman, described fishermen’s relation to the sea as the ebb and tide. He explained that fishing haul varies in accordance with the species of fish. He said “Most fishermen focus on fishing some specific kinds of fish as they fetch good money. They also focus on whales which are used to make surgical sutures. There are different kinds of nets for various kinds of fish. However, there are some atrocious means to fish such as using explosives in the coral reefs which kill fish. Fishermen who use this technique take what they want and throw the rejected stuff in the water. This has a very destructive effect to the marine environment. Besides many fish leave these places as they are no longer safe.
Others go in for decoration fish. However, the authorities concerned have put an end to this malpractice.”

Abd Salman Mohammed Ali asserted that cooperation and solidarity among sailors has helped relieve many problems facing sailors.