Tue Feb 7, 2012
SANAA (Reuters) - Eritrea's navy has seized five Yemeni fishing boats in the Red Sea in an area where the two countries have had a territorial dispute, a Yemeni official said on Tuesday.
The incident is part of a dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over water rights around the Red Sea's Hanish Islands, which the two countries briefly fought over in 1995.
An international court gave Yemen sovereignty over some of the archipelago's islands, but the two countries have disagreed on interpretations of the ruling regarding fishing rights.
Eritrea has repeatedly captured Yemeni fishing boats that it says were fishing in its territorial waters, Fisheries Ministry Undersecretary Nabil Sajam told Reuters.
"Eritrean forces captured these boats. They do this regularly and accuse the Yemeni fishermen of entering Eritrean waters," Sajam said.
Eritrean officials could not be immediately contacted to comment.
Yemen says both countries' territorial waters are open to Eritrean and Yemeni fisherman, while Eritrea says that Yemenis are not allowed to fish in its waters.
Yemeni fishing boats caught by Eritrean forces are usually confiscated, while the fishermen on board are given jail sentences lasting for a few months before being returned to their home country, Sajam said.