Monday, March 23, 2009

Gaza's Fishing Industry Reeling

Photo: Tom Spender

IRIN (reporting from Gaza City), March 12, 2009 -
A combination of damage to fishing resources caused by the Israeli offensive, and a restriction on the zone in which Gazans are allowed to fish is reducing catches and adversely affecting people’s diets in Gaza, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In January 2009 the Israeli authorities reduced the area in which fishermen can fish from six to three nautical miles from Gaza’s coastline.

In Rafah (southern Gaza) fishing has almost completely stopped due to the damage inflicted on fishing gear and boats during the 22-day war which ended on 18 January.

Fishing nets, rope, twine and gas mantles are in short supply due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza since June 2007, according to OCHA, along with engines and spare parts.

“During Operation Cast Lead a naval closure was imposed on the Gaza Strip. Following the end of fighting the navy decided to allow fishing from up to three miles from the coast,” said an Israeli military source who preferred anonymity. “The closure was imposed to prevent the smuggling of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip by sea.”

Gazan fishing was permitted up to 12 nautical miles from the coast before 2000, but was reduced to six after 2000, according to OCHA. Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 fishing off Gaza was allowed within 20 nautical miles of the coast.

Parlous state

In 2008 fishing accounted for 1.5 percent of Gaza’s economy (agriculture and fishing together accounted for 10 percent), according to the agricultural ministry in Gaza.

The fishing industry was in a parlous state even before the 27 December 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza.

“Today there are about 3,500 fishermen in Gaza; in 2000 there were 10,000,” said agricultural minister Mohammed Agah. “The main obstacle for fishermen before the war was the lack of fuel, but now they are having greater difficulties.”

Petrol and diesel were last allowed into Gaza via Nahal Oz for public use on 2 November 2008, reports OCHA, and according to the Gas Station Owners’ Association, no fuel has been delivered to Gaza through the tunnels under the Gaza-Egyptian border since 26 February 2009.

Protein intake down

The restrictions on fishing - and imports of such things as animal feed and livestock - have effectively reduced Gazans’ protein intake since the war, said Agah, who says daily protein intake is 50 percent less than average daily protein intake across the Arab world - something that would affect child development, he said....

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