/Ahmed Gaddeh) — The Zarat fishing harbour in the governorate of Gabes is facing collapse as silting threatens the livelihood of fishermen and their vessels, for the harbour entrance goes as low as 0.5m during low tides.
Silting might be a natural phenomenon but it has been worsened by the lack of dredging, which is now more urgent than ever, said fishing boat captain Ridha Aloui.
Fishermen must wait up to 6 hours for the high tide to be able to leave or enter the harbour.
The smallest fishing boat makes the living of 6 people or rather 6 local families in the region, while the biggest makes the living of 14; a threat to the boats and to their activities is therefore a threat to several dozens of locals, he considered.
“The construction works of a seawater desalination plant in the region has made things even worse, as it pushes more sea-sand towards the harbour entrance, which has added insult to injury.”
The harbour plays a key role in producing and exporting crab but its activities face the danger of a catastrophe if immediate measures are not taken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries.
“We demand harbour expansion and dredging. Dredging is vital to avoid calamities and port expansion will help increase fish and crab production.”
Zarat Mayor Abdessalam Dahmani assured that a study has been conducted over three years by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries to “protect the Zarat Harbour from Silting, upgrade its worn-out infrastructure and build a bridge is under finalisation.”
The achievement of this 25 million-dinar project shall begin by mid-2023, he specified.
“However, we urged the authorities to expedite the dredging works as the matter is of great urgency. The Agriculture Minister, who visited the harbour last September, undertook to contact local authorities within two weeks but failed to do so,” the mayor pointed out, calling “the authorities to act quickly before a tragedy takes place.”
A regards the desalination plant, the mayor called to create salt evaporation ponds to avoid returning the extracted salt to the sea, which would damage the fish population.
Creating salt evaporation ponds would yield more returns and save the marine ecosystem in the region, but immediate action is paramount, the mayor said.