The Gabes Shipwreck: yet another disaster for the local fishermen

The oil tanker that sank off the coast of Gabes has reignited concern regarding oil spills in this already heavily polluted region. The immediate danger is supposedly over, but this does not necessarily reassure the local fishermen: for years their working conditions have been steadily deteriorating due to pollution.
Written by | 05 May 2022 | reading-duration 15 minutes

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On April 16, 2022, an oil tanker sank a few kilometres outside the Gabes port. According to the evacuated crew members, 750 tonnes of oil were set to spill off the coast of Tunisia. The concern is palpable. An oil spill would be yet another ecological disaster for this already stricken region.

To limit the risks, the crew at the Gabes port followed protocol, supported by Italian reinforcements. A few days later, the disaster finally appeared to have been averted. The army announced that the ship, which was probably carrying contraband, was full of water. 

The story still leaves plenty of questions unanswered. An investigation has been opened and the crew members have been detained. However, beyond this particular event and all the attention it has attracted in the press, the fishermen of Gabes have been suffering from the pollution of the Groupe Chimique Tunisien for years. 

Some fishermen expressed concern upon seeing the oil that leaked from the shipwreck engine, whilst others had already been disheartened by the state of the sea. Every day, the Groupe Chimique Tunisien dumps thousands of cubic metres of phosphogypsum, mixed with fresh water, into the sea. Waste is amassing on the beaches. The seabed has been overexploited by fishing over the last few decades. The riches of the Gabes Gulf are at risk.