Last Friday myself and Rosa went out with the fishermen again, this time we went with the sardine boats.
We left port at about 6 o’clock (18.00) and stayed out for 12 hours. As we headed out we talked to the crew and they filled us in on the normal procedures and what was likely to happen.Normally they head out to close to the 3 mile limit ( which over the past few years has got smaller, 2006 , 20 miles, 2008 , 12 miles and 2010 6 miles and by 2012 , 3 miles).
When we reached the fishing grounds 100 to 150 meters short of the 3 mile limit , we dropped anchor and waited for sunset, while waiting we all sat chatted and had something to eat. As we sat we were well aware of the Israeli gun boats in our vicinity but were quite happy that they were leaving us alone.But things changed after sunset, as we tried to scan the horizon looking for faint silhouettes, out of the darkness at high speed came a gun boat. At first , in complete darkness and then about 75 to 100 meters away from us, it turned on its high beam spot light, followed seconds later by burst of gun fire from its GPMG. We tried to signal to them that we were inside the 3 mile limit but to no avail they just kept on coming around and shooting at us and the 2 small hasakas we were towing behind but at this stage had 2 fishermen in them. At this point the captain decided to lift anchor and move back to 2.5 mile.
On reaching our new ground we started down to work but the captain and crew knew that their catch would not be as good , as these grounds are over fished and stocks are depleted.As you will see in the video, the first catch is very small and not good quality.But when times are hard you take what ever you can.
At about 01.30 in the morning the captain made the decision to head back out again , this time about 250 meter’s short of the 3 mile limit. That doesn’t sound like a big distance, just over a quarter of a mile, but their next catch was 3 times the size of their first catch.
While taking in this catch we knew the gun boat wasn’t far away as it shone its spot light on us on several occasions, but if the fishermen didn’t go out that far they wouldn’t have made enough to pay themselves. For them, this is part of daily life as most the fishermen in Gaza have either been shot at or arrested or both.While talking to the crew, one after another showed me where they had been shot, most in the legs and some in the arms.
Fishermen the world over understand the dangers of regular fishing, heavy equipment, rough seas and being a big distance from any help. So to add an additional complication of been shot at makes the job virtually impossible.
At about 06.00 we headed back to port with what I would consider a poor catch for 12 hour but the crew were happy with 20 boxes of sardines and of course one small bag of fish for breakfast for myself and Jenny.
click here for video: sardine fishing , gaza
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