“We just want freedom to fish.”-
Said a fisherman from the Gaza strip who has lost almost everything due to the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian war. Gaza is home to nearly 1.8 million people with over 30,000 of those people being directly dependent on the fishing industry to survive. Since 2007 Israel has began to place harsher fishing laws on the fisherman of Gaza in order to gain an economical and strategic advantage over Palestine. According to Mohammed Omer of Aljazeera.com, last July Israel restricted the range that Gazan Fisherman could fish from six nautical miles off of the coast to only three. One would think that this difference shouldn’t be too drastic but according to a local fisherman in Gaza by the name of Alamodi, he and his family fished for three straight days during a 72 hour seize fire and caught nothing. He told Mohammed Omer in an interview “It’s a waste of time: there are no fish within three [nautical] miles now, but further out, beyond six [nautical] miles, there are natural stones where we can find a variety of fish.” Gazans are suppose to have the right to travel out up to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo agreement that was signed by Israel and the PLO in 1993 but I suppose Israel has chosen to void that agreement for the time being.
On top of the restrictions to fishing range, Israel has attacked fishermen with direct gunfire to their boats with over 177 separate cases in 2014 alone. Whether these one-sided exchanges in gunfire have been purposeful or accidental, many Gazans have been injured and killed as a result. Something Omer mentions that Israel has done purposefully is bomb workrooms of fishermen through targeted airstrikes. These Workrooms contain loads of fishing gear, motors, and other essential things to a fisherman’s success. Dr. Moeen Rajab theorizes that Israel is attacking the Gazan fishing industry to increase Israeli profitability and force Gazan fisherman to become reliant on charity. The United Nations claims that over 95% of Gazan fishermen require international aid to make ends meet. This has led to a large decrease in the fishing profession, which was nearly 10,000 people in 2000 and is now 3,500 and dropping. With the lack of fish being caught, the prices of the fish that are brought to markets are significantly higher than they were several years prior. A nurse from the United Nations-run clinic of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza told a reporter from the Electronic Intifada, that malnourishment is increasing in certain areas leading to a huge spike in anemia. Low-income families are unable to afford fish in markets after purchasing the essentials such as fruit and vegetables due to the severe economic crisis Gaza faces.
If you ask me, I would say that Omer and the Electronic Intifada bring up some good points that make me want to be apposed to Israeli restrictions on Gaza’s fishing industry, though, I’m trying to keep in mind that there are two sides to every argument. It’s just sad to see that politics and war are ruining the lives of so many innocent people whom are just trying to get by. Fishing is one of the oldest ways of providing for oneself/family and I believe everyone should have the right to fish within a fair boundary. Geographically, Israel has about six times the coastline of Gaza so I’m confident that Israel doesn’t need the extra fishing area that they are occupying. Hopefully Israel and Palestine can workout a deal soon that would return the fishing industry in Gaza to its profitability that it once knew many years ago. How do you feel about the Israeli restrictions on the Gazan fishing industry? I’d love to hear a comment in favor of or against the restrictions so that I can continue to learn about this topic.