Mounting Challenges to Fishermen in Yemen

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-07-01 05:01 PM UTC


Now and then, the Eritrean authorities detain dozens of Yemeni fishermen and release them after weeks or days of detention. The latest release of a group of fishermen happened on Saturday, June 29, 2024. Twenty-three Yemeni fishermen arrived in Al-Hudaydah after spending several days in Eritrean prisons.

The fishermen said that Eritrean naval patrols attacked them while they were fishing in Yemeni territorial waters on board boats. The patrols kidnapped them and took them to prisons on the second day of Eid Al-Adha.

According to the fishermen, the Eritrean authorities confiscated and plundered their property, including the fishing equipment, and practiced various types of torture against them, forcing them to perform hard labor with hunger and ill-treatment.

Human rights reports point out that Yemeni fishermen have been subjected to killing, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention under inhumane conditions of imprisonment, torture, and cruel and abusive treatment, including beating, hard labor, and deprivation of food and water.

According to the reports, Eritrean forces have repeatedly confiscated fishermen's boats and attempted to sink them. These violations cause fishermen material losses and cost them the loss of their livelihood.

Local reports estimated that the Eritrean naval forces have carried out more than 7,000 kidnapping crimes against Yemeni fishermen in the Red Sea since 2015.

While the Eritrean violations against the Yemeni fishermen have been a constant challenge to those working in fishing, another challenge has risen since the start of the Red Sea escalation late last year.

The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group has deployed several boats in its battle with the U.S.-led multinational forces in the Red Sea. The Houthi boats used in the naval battle are unmanned and suicidal. This makes the fishing boats vulnerable to possible attacks by the American-led forces. Yesterday, June 30, 2024, the Houthi group unveiled a new type of gunboat that will be used in the Red Sea battle.

The group called the boat the "Destructive Toofan", indicating that it is a locally-made uncrewed military boat with a high destructive capacity and carrying a warhead weighing 1000-1500 kg. The boat is equipped with advanced technology, and it can be operated remotely. The boat's speed reaches 45 nautical miles per hour, and it operates in all marine conditions.

Earlier today, the U.S. Central Command said it destroyed three Houthi drone boats in the past 24 hours. The Central Command said in a statement that it took measures to "protect freedom of navigation and make international waters protected and safer".

Consequently, the ongoing exchange of attacks between the Houthi group and the multinational forces in the Red Sea makes fishing in Yemen a riskier job.

In February this year, a Yemeni government official said about 300,000 people in Al-Hudaydah province work in the fishing sector, of whom 60 percent have lost their jobs after the attacks on shipping lanes in the Red Sea. 


The official pointed out that the military operations off the coast of Al-Hudaydah have killed  71 fishermen and wounded over 100 others since 2018. The fishermen are exposed to gunfire, shelling, drones, or missiles as the Red Sea tensions continue to intensify.


Another grave threat facing the fishermen is the sea mines. 


Sheba Intelligence reported in December last year that sea mines had been planted along the coasts of the Red Sea, especially off the shores of the Midi port, populated islands, fishing spots, and near the international shipping route in the Red Sea, west of Buklan Island, which belongs to the Midi District in Hajjah province.

A UN report says the fisheries sector in Yemen supplies work opportunities for more than half a million persons, who provide for 1.7 million and make up 18% of the coastal population of 9.4 million. According to the report, fishing is a major source of income, a critical sector for job creation, and a vital tributary of the economy.

The following table presents the number of Yemeni fishermen who have been released from Eritrean prisons since last year.



Number of released Yemeni fishermen from Eritrean prisons

June 2024


May 2024


March 2024


January 2024


November 2023


October 2023


September 2023


August 2023


July 2023


June 2023


May 2023