Gaza fishing industry held hostage at sea

Located in the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, and Palestine’s only access to the ocean, the Gaza Strip could be a natural gateway to regional trade for the Palestinian economy. However, near daily shootings and arrests by Israeli forces since a ceasefire agreement last August are exacerbating a decade-long crisis in the fishing sector, with livelihoods particularly vulnerable following a 51-day war on the coastal territory.

At least eighty fishing boats, dozens of fishing huts, and hundreds of nets were destroyed during the Israeli military offensive last summer, according to Oxfam, adding further restrictions to the industry, which began in the year 2000.

The 2007 Israeli blockade, followed by a large-scale military offensive a year later, imposed a three nautical mile zone for fishermen along Gaza’s 40 km coastline, crippling an industry that could have been thriving in the blue expanse of the Mediterranean.

As a result, the numbers of fishermen registered in Gaza have dropped dramatically over the past ten years as the profitability of the sector continues to decrease.

In 2005, there were over 10,000 fishermen registered in Gaza, according to Oxfam. Today, that number stands at around 3,500, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Oxfam’s partner in Gaza, says only a third of those go out to sea regularly.

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