Three-year Saudi blockade make Yemeni fishermen bleed
In the port of this coastal city in western Yemen, hundreds of fishing boats, painted in bright blues and intricate patterns, are anchored – many of them docked since 2015.
The paralysed port is yet another reminder of how the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, which recently marked its three -year-anniversary, has taken its toll on the country and its citizens.
When war broke out in March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition imposed a siege on all ports .
The coalition has notably targeted fishing boats , claiming that fishermen are smuggling weapons to the so-called Houthis.
The crackdown has had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of thousands of Yemeni fishermen, who are faced with an impossible choice between overwhelming poverty, imprisonment, or even death.
According to the head of the Yemeni Union of Fishermen of the Western Coast, Abdullah Bahaidar, the Saudi-led coalition has arrested more than 80 fishermen from Yemeni territorial waters and targeted more than 20 fishing boats in air strikes, killing dozens since March 2015.
Saudi newspaper Okaz reported in January 2017 that Houthis were forcing Yemeni fishermen in Hodeidah to smuggle weapons. While other newspapers and officials have spoken about fishermen smuggling weapons, the fishermen denied these accusations, emphasising that they did not wish to be embroiled in such issues.
“Fishermen are the breadwinners for their families. All of them oppose the war and hate the politics that deprive people of their work,” Hussein said. “I hope for any kind of supervision of fishermen that does not prevent them from fishing.”
In al-Mocha, a southwestern coastal city under control of the Saudi-led forces, fishermen ‒ many of whom were displaced from areas of the Taiz province which became pro-government military zones ‒ were prevented from sailing as the city hosts a military base of the Saudi-led coalition.
Meanwhile, the costs of fishing in Hadhramout and other pro-government areas have doubled due to increased fuel prices, while the Saudi-led coalition has forbidden fishing in some areas, a fisherman from the Hadhramout district said .
“Fuel is expensive and we have also to pay more taxes than before. Meanwhile, people cannot afford expensive fish, and this is the main reason why fishing has decreased,” the fisherman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The majority of Yemen’s estimated 150,000 fishermen have been forced to cease or decrease their work, the Yemeni Union of Fishermen of the Western Coast stated, plunging 70 percent of them into poverty.
Mohammed al-Zubairi, the minister of fisheries for the Sanaa-based so-called Houthi government, accused the Saudi-led coalition in a press conference in mid-March of having directly targeted fishermen, their boats, and seaports in the past three years.
Zubairi said the coalition had caused vast financial losses in the fishing sector, adding that the coalition had destroyed 11 fish landing centres in the Red Sea in 2017 alone.
Many fishermen have ceased their trade, leaving their boats docked on Hodeidah’s coast, but many struggle to find new lines of work amid the country’s economic crisis.