Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Fisherman Abu Jihad Koka feels disappointed about the Israeli decision to expand the fishing area in the sea of the Gaza Strip, in the month of April. The expensive and exhausting trip that Koka started in the afternoon and finished the next morning was in the hope of finding fish in the expanded area. He wishes that the Israeli authorities would allow them to fish in a larger area. Currently they are allowing 6 miles, Koka says they need at least nine. He desperately needs to earn a living. He has been suffering financially because he cannot earn a living as a fisherman.
Koka says that a typical trip in a fishing skiff costs 1000 shekels. That covers an area from port to 9 miles out in the sea. Fishing in the area does not yield enough to cover the cost of the trip. Each trip out for the fisherman is a loss.
The new territory has been off limits for the past 15 years.
In Gaza there are 6000 fishermen. In the Gaza Strip 4,000 fishermen are registered officially, 2000 are seasonal workers, the total along with their dependents is a total of more than 50 thousand people. The 6000 fishermen are limited to fishing in a narrow coast length that is forty kilometers and 6 miles out to sea. Another fisherman, Imad Miqdad, says with a sigh, explained that "the conditions of the fishermen in Gaza has been turned upside down in the last ten years."
Before the second intifada, we were fishing for all types of fish and sold at acceptable prices for us and for the citizen. Unlike today’s situation of high prices, no variety and scarcity
According to Wafa (the Palestinian news agency) archives, the years of 1967-1978 were the golden years for fishing in Gaza. The Golden Years were due to the access to 180 kilometers of coast line. The Gazan fishermen had a territory from the Gaza strip to Bardawil in Egypt.
During that period it was reported that the amount of fish caught would reach up to 60 tons per day. After the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, fishing territory has been reduced to a distance of 35 kilometers along the sea and a depth of 20 km. The 20 kilometers are not allowed full access only what Israel dictates at the time. The World Food Program states that Israel’s closure of Gaza’s borders has led to a steep rise in malnutrition due to the loss of fish and other animal protein.
Nizar Ayyash, Head of the Palestinian fishermen in Gaza estimated the amount of fish production during the recent years were between 1500 and 1800 tons, incomparable to the case in the years before the second intifada. Annual production exceeded 4,000 tons. That covered the demands of the domestic market with enough to export
Gaza is famous for at least 10 types of fish. Koka says the past year was one of the worst years to date. Sardines are a staple for fishermen and could not be found in the small allotted area.
Dr. Abdel Fattah Abed Rabbo, a professor of environmental science at the Islamic University of Gaza, warns, “the situation is desperate and fishermen might resort to what he called "poaching". Where fishermen will use destructive methods to the marine environment. The contributing factors to poaching are:
· The siege ,
· Limited amount of territory and
· Economic/ financial state
· Types and size of fish
· Lack of regulations on fishing methods
One method of poaching is to use abandoned vehicles. The vehicles are dumped into areas to raise the sea bed and draw out fish, This is a destructive method to marine life and disrupts the balance. There has been proposals for fish farming to compensate the lack of fish and the deteriorating marine environment. . The farming will be done in cages that are placed in the fishing areas and in pools. These are costly projects that need assistance. They need electricity, equipment, feed, filtration and training. Gaza is in desperate need of solutions for it’s fish industry
Translated by: Kefah Abukhdeir