Israel-Palestinian Sea Feud Harms Gaza Fishermen

Posted by Michelle Howard
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

After hours casting their nets close to the Gaza shore, Palestinian fishermen sift through their catch in the dim dawn light, managing to scrape together a few piles of puny fish.


It's a miserable catch, the result, they say, of restrictions imposed by Israel, with boats allowed only three nautical miles (5.6 km) offshore after a month of no fishing at all during the recent fighting.

For years Gaza's fishing community - once one of its proudest and most productive industries - has been caught in the middle of a maritime feud, part of a wider conflict between the blockaded Palestinian enclave and Israel.

As Palestinian and Israeli negotiators meet independently with Egyptian officials to try to reach an agreement to end the latest conflict that began on July 8, maritime rights are one of the critical issues up for discussion.

The Palestinians want Israel to allow fishermen to sail up to 12 nautical miles from the shore - the internationally defined limit for a nation's waters - so that they can net greater numbers of larger fish.

Over the past eight years, Israel has set a six-mile limit for Gaza's fishermen when tensions were lower, restricting it to three miles when hostilities have escalated.

Israel says Gaza's sea, air and land blockade aims to prevent Hamas, the Islamist group which runs Gaza, from acquiring weapons or materials that could be used against the Jewish state.

Since Israel responded to rocket fire from Gaza with airstrikes and a ground invasion, fighting that left more than 1,900 Palestinians and 64 soldiers and three civilians in Israel dead - fishermen have been even more restricted, barely leaving the shoreline.

"They brought us back to zero," said fisherman Khalid Abu Riyad, 50, on a jetty before heading out to sea before dawn.

Dangerous Waters
The United Nations food agency estimates 3,600 Gaza households are involved in fishing. Just under half of those have no other source of income.

"The livelihood of these people is completely jeopardised," said Ciro Fiorillo, head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's operations in Gaza and the West Bank.

The agency estimates that the latest conflict deprived fishermen of around 200-250 tonnes of fish, or 9-10 percent of their average annual catch under a six-mile restriction.

Fishermen describe being shot at or harassed by Israeli naval vessels, sometimes even when they are inside the allocated fishing zone, which is marked with illuminated red warning buoys. They say Israel has sometimes confiscated equipment and on occasion they have had to abandon it if they came under fire.

"It is very dangerous, after six miles there may be shooting," said Suboh al-Hesi, a 36-year-old fisherman.

Hesi earns 20-30 shekels ($6-9) a day but often comes back empty-handed. The past four years have been especially tough, he says: fuel has tripled in price since 2006 and competition has increased because more men started to fish when they lost their jobs on the land.

Before the restrictions, he was able to catch sea bream, grouper and other larger fish. Now he is lucky if he gets a bucket of small crabs or sardines, which are far less valuable.

The fishing community say they need the fishing zone to be expanded to at least 10 miles and ideally to 12, where schools of fish are more prevalent.

"Gaza is an area that is a fish passage, a transit area," said a 49-year-old fisherman who gave his name as Abu Mohammad. Fish do not stay close to the shore but sweep by further out and that is where the fishermen need to be, he said.

Instead of serving fish caught miles from their doorstep, the stretch of restaurants close to the shore offer farmed, frozen seafood, or fish smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt.

Asaad Abu Hasira, 53, recalled that before 2000, his fish restaurant and the industry were thriving.

"It was excellent, tourists used to come from Arab countries. There were foreign and local tourists and international delegations," he said at his coastal business, which has been serving up fish since 1955.

Twenty years ago, Israelis would come as tourists to Gaza and eat in the restaurants. Fishermen would even export their catch to Israel, said Hasira, who comes from a fishing family.

For him, the maritime feud has done more than restrict livelihoods, it has harmed cultural links with the sea.

"Part of Palestinian society lives by the sea and works by the sea. There is a greater fishing tradition than in Israel," he said, adding that he cannot bring himself to give up.

"I love fish, if I am away from the sea, I die - like a fish."

(By Sylvia Westall, Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Maritime Reporter May 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Maritime Security

5 Tunisian Migrants Die in Shipwreck

At least five Tunisian migrants died on Saturday when their boat sailing to Italy capsized off the Tunisian coast, officials said. "A migrant boat carrying

Launch of First Future Destroyer, Hobart

Speech delivered by the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews during the launch of Hobart - the first future destroyer: Thank you for being here on this very important day.

Yemen-bound Aid Ship Docks in Djibouti

An Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid for war-ravaged Yemenis has arrived in Djibouti. It will be inspected by the United Nations so its cargo can be shipped to conflict-torn Yemen.

News

Solarworld Wants Duties on Chinese Solar Goods in U.S. Extended

German solar manufacturer SolarWorld will apply to the United States for an extension of duties on Chinese panel imports that are due to end this year, weekly Euro am Sonntag said.

Sea Urchin Haven Disturbed by Oil Spill

Stephanie Mutz makes a living plucking sea urchins from the Santa Barbara coast and selling the prickly treasure to upscale restaurants in Southern California.

5 Tunisian Migrants Die in Shipwreck

At least five Tunisian migrants died on Saturday when their boat sailing to Italy capsized off the Tunisian coast, officials said. "A migrant boat carrying

Maritime Safety

5 Tunisian Migrants Die in Shipwreck

At least five Tunisian migrants died on Saturday when their boat sailing to Italy capsized off the Tunisian coast, officials said. "A migrant boat carrying

Oil-coated Pelicans Being cleaned at Rehab Center

Several petroleum-stained pelicans rescued from the blackened muck of California's latest oil spill spent the day on Friday being gently, painstakingly scrubbed

Launch of First Future Destroyer, Hobart

Speech delivered by the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews during the launch of Hobart - the first future destroyer: Thank you for being here on this very important day.

Government Update

Solarworld Wants Duties on Chinese Solar Goods in U.S. Extended

German solar manufacturer SolarWorld will apply to the United States for an extension of duties on Chinese panel imports that are due to end this year, weekly Euro am Sonntag said.

Alaska, Washington to build Arctic Icebreakers

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, and Senator Maria Cantwell, Washington, have introduced a bill that would authorize the Navy to build up six icebreakers for use by the U.

Launch of First Future Destroyer, Hobart

Speech delivered by the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews during the launch of Hobart - the first future destroyer: Thank you for being here on this very important day.

Middle East

WFP: Aid Cargo for Yemen will be Delivered After Ship Docks

The World Food Programme will deliver a cargo of Iranian aid for Yemen once the ship carrying it reaches Djibouti's port, the U.N agency said on Friday. Earlier

Iran Aid Ship Reaches Djibouti Waters, Waits to Enter Port

An Iranian aid ship has reached the outskirts of Djibouti's port and is waiting for a permit to enter after Tehran agreed to an international inspection of the vessel with goods for Yemen,

Italy: 900 Migrants Rescued at Sea, One Dead

More than 900 migrants were rescued in one day from three overcrowded boats en route to Europe from North Africa, an Italian coast guard official said on Thursday.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Naval Architecture Offshore Oil Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2083 sec (5 req/sec)