The life of a fishermen, any fisherman, is a hard life, sometimes solitary, always fraught with danger, It is a hand to mouth existence, the perils of the sea to contend with, add to this an illegally imposed 3 mile limit, a blockade strangling an already harsh existence, threat of bullets, water cannons, arrest etc and what do you have…………palestinian fishermen…
Here in Gaza strip, Palestine, the fishing community was once a big part of the life on the coastal enclave, Now it is a struggle to feed families, to stay alive, to repay debts on boats even after they are destroyed or confiscated.Many fishermen, against their natural instincts have effectively become traders, sailing to egyptian waters, buying their fish and reselling back in the Gaza fish Market.
Since the beginning of 2012, Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen and their property have escalated. According to PCHR’s documentation, Israeli naval troops have launched a minimum of 50 attacks against fishermen, including 15 shooting attacks, 7 pursuits, 20 incidents of detention and 7 cases of confiscation of fishing boats and equipment. Internationals, including thoses of us from Ireland, regularly accompany these boats, sometimes travelling alongside in the CPS ( civil peace service) boat, ” Oliva” or on board the trawlers themselves. We document and witness first hand the occupations violent attacks, the constant harassment and the threat to the lives of the fishermen.
Note that the Israeli occupation authorities have imposed stricter limits on fishing in the sea off the Gaza Strip. The original limit specified in the 1993 Oslo Accords was 20 nautical miles. It was then reduced to 6 miles. Since 2009, the limit has been decreased even further to 3 nautical miles but Israeli naval troops often attack fishermen within this area. As a result of these restrictions, fishermen have lost 85% of their income, 60,000 people here rely on the fishing industry to survive ( PCHR reports 2012)
These attrocities are complete violations of International humanitarian law and human rights , as they are a collective punishment of the palestinian people. Fishermen are subjected to harassment, live fire, confiscation of boats and nets, and water cannon, sometimes impregnated with foul-smelling chemicals. Many of these families had originally borrowed money to buy their boats and equipment. The Occupation forces regularly confiscate the boats, maybe never return or return in unworkable conditions, regardless of this, the fishermen still have to continue to pay back the cost of their boats, they do not receive compensation for the damage or loss of equipment and this leaves many families on the edge of survival.
Fishing within the 3 ile illegally imposed limit means catches are small, fish are small and the water is so heavily polluted fron sewage that sometimes the options are take the fish, feed your family and hope they do not become so sick as to need medical attention that is not readily available, or dont fish and go hungry!!! Could you choose, is it a choice , or another tactical form of punishment??? As an example, on one of our recent trips with a trawler, this was the results…. We made our last haul at approximately 6 .30 A.M and by the end of a 12 hour shift, the crew had caught approximately 50 kilo of fish. To put this into perspective, 50 kilo of fish at 15 shekels a kilo is 750 shekels. They spent 600 shekels on fuel for the night’s work, this leaves 150 shekels for the boat owner, the captain and the 3 deck hands. As the boat owner and captain would take a slightly bigger share, it leaves very little for the deck hands.
One euro is approx. 5 shekels or one dollar is approx 3.8 shekel. So, after paying for fuel, the entire crew, including boat owner are let with 30 euro between them for a 12 hour shift.
These are all family men trying to survive, on this type money, under a siege…………..family men trying to survive in Gaza.
We will continue to accompany these men, in Gaza, their refusal to give up, is an inspiration and the International community should be a strong voice in their plight, the siege is illegal, the 3 mile limit is illegal, the abuses of human rights are illegal , the fishing community , worldwide, needs to unite in the call for an end to these fagrant abuses and demand the rights of Palestinian fishermen and their families.
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