Zaid preparing the fishing net before his fishing trip

Zaid is an experienced fisherman; he was taught by his father how to fish when he was a little boy. But when the fighting hit Zaid's village in Hodeida two years ago, he took his seven children and his wife and fled to At-Tuhayta district. At-Tuhayta is not far from the frontlines, but it is safer than their home village.

Since Zaid fled his home, he has been working in At-Tuhaytah with some of his new neighbours to provide for his family. Zaid says he faces challenges in maintaining his fishing gear and boat, along with increased costs because of a fuel crisis caused by the war. “Sometimes everything we catch goes on fuel,” Zaid says. “To save on fuel we use paddles, but then we can’t go far out, to where the big fish are.”

Zaid’s wife also suffers from a mental disorder, leaving him torn between taking care of his family and making ends meet. “With my wife’s condition I stay at home to take care of the children. I give my wife her medicine, cook for the children and feed my baby girl,” Zaid explains. This makes it difficult for him to go on long journeys and to be able to catch enough fish.

To help fathers like Zaid stay on the water, the Norwegian Refugee Council [NRC] and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund provided fishermen in his area with a package of useful support. Everyone received life jackets and other equipment, and training on best fishing practices and how to navigate and stay safe at sea. They also received a small cash payment to help them through the tough times.

“NRC provided us with fishing nets and an icebox,” Zaid explains. “Before, we used sacks to store the fish we caught. We put some ice in plastic bags and put them with the fish. Now with icebox from NRC we can store the fish for much longer and go on longer fishing trips, without worrying the fish might go bad.”

“Thanks NRC for the support they gave us and thanks for the people who funded them,” Zaid adds.

Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini
Yemen

Fishing in the middle of a war

“Sometimes everything we catch goes on fuel. To save on fuel, we use paddles, but then we can’t go far out, to where the big fish are,” says Zaid.

Zaid, a 35-year-old fisherman from the west coast of Yemen, was taught how to fish when he was a little boy. He never went to school. Working as a fisherman was the only trade he ever knew.

But when the fighting in Yemen hit his village in Hodeidah two years ago, Zaid took his wife and seven children and fled to the district of At-Tuhayta. Although not far from the frontlines, it was still safer than his home village.

Before the war, I did not have white hair in my beard. It has made life miserable.
Zaid, 35, fisherman from At-Tuhayta
Zaid and his wife and daughter

Zaid is an experienced fisherman; he was taught by his father how to fish when he was a little boy. But when the fighting hit Zaid's village in Hodeida two years ago, he took his seven children and his wife and fled to At-Tuhayta district. At-Tuhayta is not far from the frontlines, but it is safer than their home village.

Since Zaid fled his home, he has been working in At-Tuhaytah with some of his new neighbours to provide for his family. Zaid says he faces challenges in maintaining his fishing gear and boat, along with increased costs because of a fuel crisis caused by the war. “Sometimes everything we catch goes on fuel,” Zaid says. “To save on fuel we use paddles, but then we can’t go far out, to where the big fish are.”

Zaid’s wife also suffers from a mental disorder, leaving him torn between taking care of his family and making ends meet. “With my wife’s condition I stay at home to take care of the children. I give my wife her medicine, cook for the children and feed my baby girl,” Zaid explains. This makes it difficult for him to go on long journeys and to be able to catch enough fish.

To help fathers like Zaid stay on the water, the Norwegian Refugee Council [NRC] and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund provided fishermen in his area with a package of useful support. Everyone received life jackets and other equipment, and training on best fishing practices and how to navigate and stay safe at sea. They also received a small cash payment to help them through the tough times.

“NRC provided us with fishing nets and an icebox,” Zaid explains. “Before, we used sacks to store the fish we caught. We put some ice in plastic bags and put them with the fish. Now with icebox from NRC we can store the fish for much longer and go on longer fishing trips, without worrying the fish might go bad.”

“Thanks NRC for the support they gave us and thanks for the people who funded them,” Zaid adds.

Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini
Read caption Zaid at home with his wife and daughter. Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini/NRC

An industry in trouble

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has decimated the country’s Red Sea fishing industry. Fishing boats, ports and processing sites have been destroyed or damaged. Fishermen have been killed and injured. A polluted marine environment has destroyed the artisanal fishing sector and displaced thousands of fishermen along with their families.

Regular fuel shortages have increased operating costs for Yemen’s fisherman. And the looming threat of an oil leak from FSO Safer (a floating oil storage tanker moored in the Red Sea) could further jeopardise the livelihoods of people like Zaid and the fishing sector in Yemen.


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Fishermen maintaining their fishing nets

To help the coastal communities in At-Tuhayta stay on the water, the Norwegian Refugee Council [NRC] and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund provided fishermen in his area with a package of useful support. Everyone received life jackets and other equipment, and training on best fishing practices and how to navigate and stay safe at sea. They also received a small cash payment to help them through the tough times.

Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini
Read caption Fishermen in At-Tuhayta maintain their fishing nets. Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini/NRC

Before the conflict, the fishing industry in Yemen employed more than half a million people and was the country’s second-biggest exporter behind oil and gas. Thousands of boats fished the rich waters of the Red Sea for tuna, sardines, mackerel, lobster and more. It is estimated that only half of the fishermen are still working today.

“Fishing is like gambling”

Zaid hasn’t stopped fishing. In At-Tuhayta, he still spends most of his days on the sea. But the war has made it more difficult for him to navigate. Before the war, he and his colleagues used to venture out into the deep waters to catch more and bigger fish.

“We used to go out to the islands,” Zaid says. “Now, with the fighting, the problems, and the fuel prices, we do not go there anymore.”

Read caption Zaid talks about the difficulties of being a fisherman in war-torn Yemen. Video: Zeyad Sulaihi/NRC

Even in normal times, fishing comes with its own set of challenges. Its seasonal nature and the high operating costs make it a risky business. Zaid sees fishing as gambling. He needs well-maintained gear, a good boat, but also luck.

“Fishing is like gambling. Sometimes we get more than enough. Other times it is not enough to cover our losses,” he says.

Abdo, a 21-year-old crew member on Zaid’s boat, agrees. “If we do not catch any fish, we eat what we have at home: some potatoes, corn, or anything. And if there is nothing at home, well, only Allah can help,” he says.

A package of support

On days when Zaid and Abdo are unable to catch enough fish to feed their families, they look for an alternative source of income. Sometimes they collect wood to sell at the market, other times they sell a goat or any valuable thing they might have, or borrow money. If nothing works, they don’t eat.

Zaid, Abdo and their friend loading the icebox to the boat

To help the coastal communities in At-Tuhayta stay on the water, the Norwegian Refugee Council [NRC] and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund provided fishermen in his area with a package of useful support. Everyone received life jackets and other equipment, and training on best fishing practices and how to navigate and stay safe at sea. They also received a small cash payment to help them through the tough times.

Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini
Read caption Zaid, Abdo and their friend load their new icebox onto their boat. The icebox was part of a package provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund. Photo: Mahmoud Al-Filastini/NRC

To help fishermen like Zaid and Abdo stay afloat, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund provided a package of support. Fishermen in Zaid’s area received life jackets, fishing nets, an icebox, and training on best fishing practices. They also got a small cash payment to help them through the tough times.

The support has made a real difference to Zaid. “Before, we used sacks to store the fish we caught,” he says. “We put some ice in plastic bags and put them in with the fish. Now with the icebox from NRC, we can store the fish for much longer and go on longer fishing trips, without worrying the fish might go bad.”

Supporting Zaid and families like his is an essential part of the humanitarian response in Yemen. Helping families to earn an income and restore their livelihoods is crucial to addressing hunger in Yemen. It helps families get back on their feet and become self-sufficient, and also boosts the local economy.

Read more about our work in Yemen