Early in the mornings, Egyptian fishermen leave their homes heading to the waters, hoping to come back at the end of the day with an approximate EGP 50 (around $6). Yet in the winter, income is not so easily available for fishermen whose craft is highly dependent on the weather conditions.
In fact, the tough winter weather often leads to dangers beyond the unreliable income.
Abdalla al-Shaer, a fisherman in the Lower Egypt province of Daqahliyah, told Aswat Masriya that he cannot risk his life by going out to sea in the cold winter days.
In the cold winter nights, many fishermen put their work on hold for fear of drowning. Ahmed Maghrabi, a member of the fishermen’s syndicate in Damietta, confirmed that a number of boats have drowned at sea due to the threatening weather conditions.
The waves are strong and high in the parts of the sea that are allocated for fishing; this means that weak fishing boats are likely to break, collide with rocks and coral reefs, and even drown.
Often fishing boat captains lose control of the boats to the strong winter waves, al-Shaer said.
In January, a fishing boat full of 14 Egyptian men was overturned in Sudanese waters. The Sudanese foreign ministry stated that they had been able to save two of the men; the remaining dozen are still missing.
Al-Shaer also said that in the winters, he often has to borrow money from his friends and relatives to secure his family’s daily needs as a result of being unable to work at sea in the difficult weather conditions. Al-Shaer waits for the summer to repay his loans.
Ashraf Hamada, a fisherman in the northern coastal Beheira province, faces similar conditions to those of al-Shaer, but he chooses to risk his life and go fishing despite of the weather conditions in order to continue making a living.
Hamada told Aswat Masriya that fishermen work on a day-to-day basis, and if they stop their work for a day, they will not be able to secure their meals.
But even though Hamada manages to take to the sea in the winter, he stresses that fish are more difficult to catch in the cold weather conditions.
According to al-Maghrabi, most fishermen suffer from sharp decreases in their incomes over the winter. Not only do the waves of the sea reach 20 meters high, but fish escape from the surface of the sea to the deeper waters for warmth, al-Maghrabi said. He added that this in turn leads fishermen to sail further into the sea.
Reda al-Gazzar, a fishermen’s captain in the northeastern coastal province of Damietta, told Aswat Masriya that a boat has already drowned this winter, which led to the death of the five fishermen on board.
The dean of the Faculty of Fisheries in the Arab Academy for Sciences and Engineering, Alaa al-Haweet, said that the shortage of nitrogen and phosphate in domestic waters is a factor in the decline of fish. This means that the daily production for fishermen has also decreased, and that fishermen are then more likely to look to international waters with unequipped boats.
According to al-Gazar, the number of registered fishermen is approximately 16,000 throughout Egypt, while the number of unregistered fishermen is almost double that.There are also almost 6,000 licensed sailing and motor boats.
There are two types of licenses for fishermen: a license for domestic waters and a license for both domestic and international waters.
Egyptian fishermen often illegally take to the territorial waters of other states in order to fish, and as a result have been frequently detained by foreign authorities.
The Egyptian foreign ministry has repeatedly issued warnings to fishermen against illegally entering regional waters.
Scores of Egyptians have been detained, and later released, in Libya, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for illegally crossing over into their territorial waters to fish.
Al-Gazar added that GPS devices, as well as other communication devices used to facilitate coordination with border guards, may be useful in decreasing the cases of drowning at sea.