Fishing under fire off the Gaza coast
Dwindling stocks, an exclusion zone and patrolling Israeli gunboats all make life difficult for the fishermen of Gaza.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are some 4,000 boat-owning families in Gaza. In 2004 they landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. It was crucial to the nutrition of the 1.7 million people of the Gaza Strip, more than half of whom were dependent on food aid, even then.
Fishing inshore is poor, and there’s an added danger because of Gaza’s failed sewage system. That was built to serve 400,000 people, and it has collapsed because of war damage and lack of materials to maintain it. Eighty-nine million litres of raw or partially treated waste water go straight into the sea every day. Last year the fishermen’s catch was less than half what it had been 10 years before. They are now the poorest section of society, according to the UN, with 95% of fishing families dependent on food handouts.
Gaza is now undergoing power cuts of 12 hours on most days. The price of diesel had doubled. Supplies of fuel and much else had been smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt, but those had mainly been closed since the Muslim Brotherhood regime fell in July and the Egyptian army took over. The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006 and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.
In the year to November 2013, Al Mezan, a Gaza-based human rights NGO that logs infringements of law and damage to property, reported 136 Israeli attacks against fishermen in Gaza’s waters. These injured eight fishermen, including a child. In 2013 Israeli forces arrested 18 fishermen, confiscated seven boats, and damaged or destroyed fishing equipment on 23 separate occasions. At least five Palestinian fishermen, all judged “non-combatants” by the UN, have died at sea in confrontations with the Israeli gunboats since 2010. — Read More
Photos by Gianluca Panella for the Observer