New crisis over fishing opportunities looming between Bahrain and Qatar

August 10, 2010
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A new crisis over fishing opportunities is looming between Bahrain and Qatar after Doha arrested 15 Bahraini fishermen for allegedly entering Qatari waters illegally.

The Bahrainis, reportedly all amateurs from Muharraq, Bahrain’s second largest city, and Sitra, a coastal town south of Manama, were arrested in two spate boats on Thursday and Friday after they strayed into the Qatari waters and have been held by the Qatari authorities. Their families said that they received a phone call informing them that they were held in Qatar and that they would be put on trial next week.

The detention of the 15 Bahrainis comes in the wake of a bitter standoff between Manama and Doha over the arrest of 117 Bahrain-based fishermen by Qatari coastguards.

The incident was triggered by the shooting of Adel Al Taweel, a Bahraini fisherman. Qatar said that the coastguards were forced to shoot after the fisherman failed to heed their warnings and subsequently resisted arrest.

Al Taweel was treated at a local hospital and Qatar snubbed Bahrain when it sent a medical team and a human rights team to help repatriate him.

Bahrain insisted on the release of all Bahraini and Bahrain-based Asian fishermen who had been held by the Qataris who had cited security concerns for the arrests.

The crisis was eventually resolved when the leaders of the two countries spoke on the phone and Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani ordered the release of the detainees and their boats and equipment.

However, Al Taweel, despite a positive verdict from the court to go home, is still in Qatar and needs a special clearance to go home. His family in Bahrain has pleaded for his prompt release to be reunited with him before the start of Ramadan.

Both Bahrain and Qatar are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-member loose alliance that also include Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Bahrain has been calling for new legislation that gives Gulf nationals better fishing opportunities in the region.

Qatar, wary of a growing drugs trade near its waters and concerned about its offshore gas fields, has been highly vigilant in controlling its coasts.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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