Gaza fishermen in despair amid sardine season

Fishing port in Gaza.
(Image: Press TV)

Israeli keeps on putting pressure on fishermen in the Gaza Strip at the height of the fishing season. Nearly a dozen Palestinian fishermen were arrested by Israeli forces off the coast since mid-April. The Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO, focal point of Social Watch in the occupied territories) warns that those Israeli policies are worsening the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

With the sardine fishing season at its peak in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces arrested six Gazan fishermen at dawn on Sunday. The Israeli navy maintains a three nautical mile fishing limit off the Gaza coast since the war at the turn of 2009, which has spoiled fishing seasons since then.

Gazan fishermen often get arrested or shot at by Israeli forces when they sail beyond that limit.  Schools of sardine swim in areas beyond four nautical miles off the coast of Gaza which makes it nearly impossible to catch.

Fishermen use trawlers equipped with special lighting fixtures to attract sardines in the dark, but the fish is almost now where to be found in the three nautical mile perimeter.  Trawlers were only able to catch few kilograms of small size sardines.

The PNGO, which represents 130 Palestinian civil society organizations, says Israeli policies against fishermen are worsening the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Amjad al-Shawwa, of the PNGO, told Iranian television channel Press TV that Israel is deepening the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, mainly that of the nutrition of the children, by preventing the Palestinian fishermen from fishing.
“Israeli aggression against fishermen has negative effects on the life of Palestinians,” he said.

Sardine like other fish is a rich source of protein for the people in Gaza who have been under a suffocating blockaded for several years.

Health officials say that Israeli aggressions against fishermen are contributing to malnutrition in the blockaded coastal enclave.

Thousands of people in Gaza are economically connected with the fishing industry, and experts warn that continued fishing restrictions will only worsen their already dire economic situation.

With the ongoing restrictions by the Israeli navy and its frequent attacks Gaza fishermen say they are caught between a rock and a hard place while trying to earn a living.

“Israeli restrictions and aggressive acts against fishermen are depriving the people here, especially children, of a very rich source of protein,” said the Health Ministry spokesman of Gaza, Ashraf al-Qedra.

The Gaza Strip had a fishing zone of 20 nautical miles under the 1993 Oslo Accords. However, Israel imposed a ban on any fishing outside a three-nautical-mile limit during the December 2008-January 2009 war against the enclave.

The Israeli-imposed ban still remains to limit the working area for Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast.

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