EJN Supports New Investigations Into Transnational Ocean Crime and Ecoviolence

fish hit by dynamite underwater
EJN Supports New Investigations Into Transnational Ocean Crime and Ecoviolence

In March 2023, EJN’s Mediterranean Media Initiative launched its Ocean Crime and Ecoviolence Investigation aimed at fostering cross-border, multilingual investigative journalism focusing on illegal and destructive fishing activities, along with other detrimental environmental practices that adversely affect the marine ecosystem. Over the past 10 months, the MMI media community's diligent efforts have led to a compelling series of investigative reports. 

These reports shine a spotlight on pressing and emerging issues in the Mediterranean region. Here's a quick recap: 

The impact of underwater internet cables on Mediterranean biodiversity: 

Bluefin tuna aquaculture fraud in Croatia: 

Pollution caused by cruise ships: 

The financial and environmental crisis facing Greece's largest aquaculture industry: 

The looming extinction of blue sharks in the Mediterranean: 

The smuggling of red coral between Algeria, Tunisia, and the European Union:

Illegal and destructive fishing practices in Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia:

These thorough, cross-border investigations not only bring these critical issues into the wider discussion of human-induced stressors — such as biodiversity loss, climate change, and escalating pollution — but also highlight their implications for human security, human health and environmental justice. 

Military-grade explosives used by fishermen in post-war countries

a bag of green powder
Ammonium nitrate powder is used by dynamite fishermen along the Lebanese coast. This illegal practice is as dangerous for the seabed as it is for humans themselves / Credit: Itzel Marie Diaz for Reporterre.

MMI has unveiled a groundbreaking series that exposes the escalating use of military-grade explosives for fishing in Libya and Lebanon. Despite being illegal, dynamite fishing is increasingly prevalent in these Mediterranean countries, as revealed by MMI's latest investigative series on destructive fishing practices.

Dynamite fishing, also known as blast fishing, is a banned practice where explosives are used to stun or kill schools of fish, simplifying their collection. This unlawful method leads to the mass killing of fish and inflicts substantial damage on the surrounding marine ecosystems.

EJN MMI’s new investigative series focuses on dynamite fishing in Libya and Lebanon, highlighting the growing trend of this practice in both countries. These investigations delve into the complexities of dynamite fishing, uncovering the socio-economic and geopolitical factors that compel fishermen to resort to explosives. The series also explores the significant environmental and human health impacts of this practice.

  • In Libya, MMI grantee Islam Alatrash uncovered the use of highly toxic military-grade TNT, rather than more commonly used agricultural fertilizers, in this prohibited fishing method. The use of TNT as opposed to agricultural fertilizers is an anomaly compared to other countries where dynamite fishing is still practiced. 
  • In Lebanon, MMI facilitated collaboration between French journalists Itzel Diaz and Weilian Zhu from Reporterre, and Lebanese journalists Rita Chahwan, a Marie Colvin Journalists' Network member, to investigate the situation there. Their findings indicate a marked increase in dynamite fishing since the onset of the country's economic crisis in 2019, particularly in the economically disadvantaged northern regions. Fishermen either purchase ready-made dynamite or concoct homemade bombs using ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers. The investigation reveals the shocking efficiency of this practice, with a 50 kg bag of explosives capable of harvesting up to 4 tons of fish within a 50-meter radius at a depth of 60 meters.

The investigations in both Libya and Lebanon highlight the desperation of fishermen driven by extreme poverty and declining fish stocks, resorting to this dangerous and environmentally destructive practice. Despite the dire consequences, there's a prevailing lack of information about the growing use of dynamite fishing in the Mediterranean, with minimal attention paid to its devastating environmental  and human health impacts.

Banner image: Undersea photos show dead fish under the sea after being hit with explosives ub Tripoli, Libya / Credit: Islam Alatrash.

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