Since January 2009, the government of Israel has restricted Palestinian fishing boats to three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast, blocking access to around 85 percent of Palestinian fishing water.
For the enterprising fisherman, venturing further out in search of bigger fish is a risky business: the fishing limit is enforced by live fire.
Now fishermen have been allowed to fish up to six nautical miles from Gaza’s coastline after a cease-fire deal was reached between Israel and Hamas on 21 November. A relief for many – but with no formal agreement to increase the limit, those who rely on the income they earn from a daily catch are worried about how long the new limit will last.
Read the blog: Fishing under fire in Gaza
Photos: David Levene/Oxfam
Fishermen say that business is not what it used to be, with 90 percent of fishing families plunged into poverty and living day-to-day.
Fishing was once a mainstay of Gaza’s economy but Israeli imposed fishing restrictions have grounded most of Gaza’s fleet.
Although the Oslo Accords granted Palestinian fishing space up to 20 nautical miles from the shore, Israeli restrictions have since limited fishing waters to 3 nautical miles. Fishermen say that the area has become overfished. From 2008 to 2010, the annual fishing catch declined by 45 per cent.
Fishermen who venture further than 3 nautical miles in search of a better catch risk being fired at by the Israeli navy. Since 1 January 2012, Oxfam reported 65 incidents of Israeli naval vessels opening fire on Palestinian fishermen, with reports of one fisherman killed and another injured.
With limits on how far out they can fish, most of Gaza’s fishermen have resorted to crab fishing with nets.
The sea blockade imposed by the government of Israel has reduced the main fishing catch – sardines – by 90 percent, representing an estimated loss of US $26.5 million to the Gaza economy.