Nova Scotia

Syrian newcomers try hand at fishing on Halifax waterfront

Some recently arrived Syrian refugees are embracing a Maritime tradition on the shores of Halifax Harbour with rod and reel.

Hani Al Sayasneh says in Syria his family rarely ate fish, but now they eat it regularly

Newly arrived Syrian families have been arriving on the Halifax waterfront to fish. (CBC)

Some recently arrived Syrian refugees are embracing a Maritime tradition on the shores of Halifax Harbour with rod and reel.

The area is bustling with tourists who are making the most of the summer by taking boat rides and sipping beers. Away from the action, as the sun sets at their backs, a group of a dozen refugees sit side by side at the end of the pier and cast their rods. They wait patiently for a bite.

They mostly catch mackerel, since it's plentiful, but Marwan Alali is not having much luck.

Marwan Alali says he and his family plan to eat any fish he catches. (CBC)

He is here for the second time. Before testing his hand at fishing in the Halifax Harbour, he had never fished in his life. His friends are poking fun at him, since it shows. It's taking him a while to get a bite.

Alali is from Aleppo. He arrived in February with his wife and four children. He's been learning English and hopes to find work as a physiotherapist.

Rarely ate fish in Syria

Through an interpreter, he explains that he comes to fish so he can enjoy the nice weather. If he does catch something, he says he'll bring it home and share it with his wife and children.

Around the corner, Hani Al Sayasneh is using a paste made of flour and water as bait. He has been coming to fish for about a month.

His three children, aged five, six and seven, are with him, as is his wife. Al Sayasneh is having better luck, but he's had more practice. His children are also trying the sport.

Hani Al Sayasneh uses a paste of flour and water as bait. (Sabrina Fabian/CBC)

Al Sayasneh says he comes to spend quality time with his family. A trained machinist from Daraa, he never had time to do something like this before.

He explains that in Syria his family rarely ate fish. Now they eat it regularly, including the fresh catches from the harbour.

After less than an hour, Alali has a bite. He proudly reels in the small, skinny mackerel as it desperately tries to get away.

He proudly shows his friends his catch before casting his rod again and trying for another.

About the Author

Sabrina Fabian is a bilingual reporter based in Halifax with more than 10 years experience. She has worked in TV, radio, online and in print. She is originally from Montreal and previously worked in Banff and Calgary.