Saturday night , It was my ( DEREK) honour along with an ISM activist, Rosa, to accompany one of the fishing boats in Gaza on a 12 hour fishing trip. We headed to the Port at 5 p.m. to meet with Captain Saber and his 3 crewmen and were ready to leave at 6.30 p.m. as we had to wait for fuel to arrive.
As we were leaving port,I felt privileged when the captain called me to the wheel house, asked me to take the wheel and take the boat out towards the fishing ground. Although i am used to boats, this proved a little bit more difficult than normal as many of the smaller boats, Hasaka’s, drop their nets quiet close to the port
My sense of privilege soon turned to annoyance when, less than 2 miles, we could already see that the Israeli boats were well inside the 3 mile limit. This meant that the fishermen were now forced to fish inside 2 miles as they feared that the Israelis would either arrest them and confiscate their boats or shoot at the boat injuring or killing some of us on board or damage the boat and /or her equipment. So, dropping the nets , we started our first 3 hour trawl.
Once the nets were dropped, we have an oppertunity to chat with the fishermen. On board the boat there was a captain and 3 deck hands, who each have stories of kidnap by Israel, Captain 3 times, one deck hand 3 times, one deck hand twice and third deck hand has so far been lucky….so far…
After 3 hours we haul the net for the first time. It was a great experience seeing a trawler in full operation and witnessing the fine tuned art of running a trawler, but this quickly turned to disgust when we opened the end of the net to find approximately only 9 kilo’s of fish. We started sorting the fish into different boxes. Unlike most places in the world, if you are trawling for shrimp, you just take the shrimp and throw the rest back, but not here. Nearly everything that was caught was boxed, down to fish 2 inches long. But the fishermen, not losing hope, dropped their nets to continue on with another 3 hour haul.
So, for the next 3 hours we had time to chat with the fishermen. We spoke about how the siege directly affects their industry. In 2006, they were able to fish to 20 miles, in line with the Oslo accord, since then, the limit has been reduced, illegally, to now in 2012 where it is “allegedly” 3 miles. Regularly, any fishing vessel coming close to 3 miles are harassed, shot at or arrested. As there are so many fishermen trying to make a living in such a small area , the grounds are overfished and fish stocks are depleted.
As we chatted, one of the deck hands gathered up a kilo of fish and cooked it up on the boat. Under moonlight, Rosa and I enjoyed freshly cooked fish , with good company and conversation. There is nothing more satisfying in this word than to be among friends, share their labour , share their stories and share their food…….. fish fresh from the catch .
Satisfaction was short lived and turned to anger as catch after catch came in as small as the first. We made our last haul at approximately 6 .30 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.
And finally ,
off to bed….
Click below for video.