SIDON, Lebanon: While some Sidon fishermen said they hauled in a good catch after last week’s fierce storm that pummeled Lebanon with snow, rain and high winds, many others lamented the amount of trash and debris that filled their nets Sunday.
Around 250 boats ventured out to sea from ports around the southern city when the harbor reopened following the storm, with fishermen casting their nets into water churned to a murky brown from the vast quantity of sediment carried by rivers into the Mediterranean during the rains.
However, the fishermen said the same rivers and the sea’s strong waves had carried trash from the informal waste dumps near the southern city of Jiyyeh and the coastal dump near Sidon’s sorting plant and deposited it in the fishing grounds.
Local fisherman Rami Abu Daqa told The Daily Star that large fish had found their way into his nets Sunday, which he was thankful for, while Hasan Shaaban returned to shore with his net full of garbage.
Shaaban said the rubbish haul had damaged his net, leaving him with a lot of repair work to do before he could put to sea again.
“[It was] a very bad trip. I can say that I caught trash rather than fish,” he said.
Shaaban blamed his troubles on Sidon’s waste dump, where rubbish has been piling up next to the sea due to problems in sorting and storage at the site.
However, Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi believes the waste originated north of the town along the coast near Jiyyeh, where he said “tons of trash has accumulated without being dealt with, and the heavy waves carried it into the sea.” Saudi said currents had swept the trash toward Sidon, dismissing claims that the garbage was from the city’s growing seafront garbage mountain.
Khaled Akra, another local fisherman, was seen returning to the port with trash weighing down his small vessel. He said the day had been a “serious loss,” as he had torn his nets on the waste in the water.
Akra added that he would seek compensation from the authorities.
The implications of the widespread practice of coastal dumping are felt all along the seaboard.
Fishermen near Beirut’s Burj Hammoud coastal dump previously told The Daily Star that they had been catching more trash than fish since 2016, when the government began dumping waste directly into the sea in an affront to environmental norms and international conventions.
Lebanon is party to the Barcelona Convention, which aims to protect the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment.