Home Middle East The Plight of Yemeni Fishermen: Struggling for Livelihood Amidst Red Sea Attacks

The Plight of Yemeni Fishermen: Struggling for Livelihood Amidst Red Sea Attacks

Yemeni Fishermen Struggle for Livelihood Amidst Red Sea Attacks

by Soofiya

In the turbulent waters of the Red Sea, Yemeni fishermen battle not only the elements but also the looming threat of attacks that deprive them of their livelihoods. This ongoing struggle has plunged many coastal communities into poverty and uncertainty, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

For generations, fishing has been a way of life for Yemenis living along the Red Sea coast. It has provided sustenance for families and served as a vital source of income for countless households. However, in recent years, escalating conflicts and geopolitical tensions in the region have made these once peaceful waters treacherous for fishermen.

The Red Sea, a crucial maritime route connecting the Middle East to the rest of the world, has become a hotspot for military confrontations and acts of piracy. Yemen, situated at the southern end of this strategic waterway, has borne the brunt of these hostilities. The country’s fishermen now navigate through a perilous landscape, where armed groups and rival factions vie for control of maritime territories.

One of the most pressing concerns for Yemeni fishermen is the risk of attacks by armed groups, including pirates and rebel forces. These attacks not only endanger the lives of fishermen but also result in the loss of their boats, equipment, and catch. As a result, many fishermen are forced to abandon their profession out of fear for their safety and the inability to sustain their families.

Moreover, the destruction of fishing vessels and infrastructure has crippled Yemen’s fishing industry, further deepening the economic woes of coastal communities. With limited access to alternative sources of income, many fishermen and their families are pushed deeper into poverty, struggling to afford basic necessities such as food, shelter, and healthcare.

The humanitarian impact of these attacks extends beyond the immediate loss of livelihoods. As fishing communities falter, food insecurity rises, and access to essential services diminishes. The health and well-being of Yemeni fishermen and their families are jeopardized, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

Addressing the plight of Yemeni fishermen requires concerted efforts from the international community to ensure their safety and support their livelihoods. This includes bolstering maritime security measures, providing assistance to affected communities, and facilitating access to alternative livelihood opportunities. Additionally, efforts to resolve the underlying conflicts and instability in the region are essential for restoring peace and stability to the Red Sea waters.

As Yemeni fishermen continue to brave the perils of the Red Sea, their resilience and determination serve as a testament to their unwavering commitment to provide for their families and preserve their way of life. However, without urgent action to address the challenges they face, the future remains uncertain for these courageous individuals who rely on the sea for their survival.

Ramzy Yusr, a seasoned fisherman who has plied the waters of the Red Sea off Yemen’s western coast for as long as he can remember, found his livelihood abruptly disrupted by events thousands of kilometers away in Gaza. Like approximately 10,000 other fishermen in Khokha and neighboring areas along Hodeidah province’s coastline, Mr. Yusr’s ability to work effectively has been severely hampered since November. This downturn coincided with the onset of attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants on commercial vessels traversing the Red Sea, purportedly in response to conflicts in Gaza.

In an interview with The National, 35-year-old Mr. Yusr lamented, “Owners of small boats like me can no longer put food on the table.” Economic struggles have plagued Yemen since the outbreak of civil war in 2014, but fishermen in Hodeidah, under Houthi control, have felt an intensified impact since December 18. On that date, the US initiated an international maritime task force aimed at safeguarding shipping routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden from Houthi assaults.

Though most Houthi attacks have involved drones and missiles launched from their territories, instances of “suspicious” boat approaches have also been reported by several ships. The US military confirmed in late December that helicopters from two of its warships sank three “Iranian-backed Houthi small boats” that allegedly fired upon a commercial vessel.

Mr. Yusr disclosed, “Since the military escalation began, we’ve been prohibited from sailing to areas with abundant fish.” He added, “We can fish only a short distance from the shore, where fish are scarce.” The limitations have severely impacted his earnings; despite investing 4 million Yemeni riyals (approximately $16,000) in his small boat, he now struggles to earn a mere 3,000 riyals on a good day, far from enough to provide for his wife and three children.

Sally Adeeb, director of research and studies at Mwatana for Human Rights, highlighted the compounded challenges faced by fishermen due to both the protracted civil conflict and the international response to Houthi attacks. Adeeb noted, “Fishermen have faced threats and risks, including gunfire directed at their boats in Yemeni and international waters by warships belonging to the US-led task force in the Red Sea.”

Some owners of larger fishing vessels, such as Mohammed Nasser, have been compelled to relocate to safer waters along Yemen’s southern coast in Hadhramaut and Al Mahra provinces. Nasser, who previously operated in Hodeidah, emphasized, “In Hodeidah, the sea has turned into a source of horror, not livelihood.” He further explained, “We are prohibited from most fishing zones. I was unable to cover the labor costs of my crew. Moving to Al Mahra was my only option.”

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