Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip is ongoing, despite frequent reminders that it “withdrew” its settlers and army posts 10 years ago. Legally and practically it is still the occupying power and it remains inflexible.
For example, Palestinian territorial waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip as defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, should extend to 12 nautical miles (22.2 km or 13.8 miles) but the Israeli navy enforces a six mile limit, sometimes even five and a half miles, for Gaza’s fishermen. In addition, the Israeli occupation authorities often make petty and spiteful “security” excuses to reduce the already reduced fishing limit to three miles.
On top of that, Palestinian fisherman are harassed by the Israeli navy on a daily basis; their boats are fired upon, sunk and confiscated, and the fishermen themselves are often arrested if they are not killed or wounded in the process. All of this, of course, has an impact on the amount of fish caught off the Gaza coast, which should be a rich fishing ground. Catching more and larger fish requires sailing into international waters, as fishermen from other countries do.
Palestinian investors in Gaza have thus resorted to fish farming. Speaking to MEMO, Yasser Al-Haj said that he invested in this sector for personal gain as well as to ease the crisis in the Palestinian market. Although it is not regarded as a solution to the crisis, it can alleviate it.
Al-Haj’s newly-opened fish farm only produces one type of fish, sea bream. It is imported from Israel and then raised in this farm and others. He says that his farm produces 7 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s needs and sells about 250kg a day. One kilo of sea bream costs about $12.
For an ordinary middle-class citizen, this price is high, but for a poor citizen it is very expensive, given the average income in the Gaza Strip. The high price is set by many factors, including the price of fish feed from Israel, which is $1,850 per tonne, plus the issue of the power cuts suffered across the territory.
Fish farms require generators to keep the oxygen moving and water pumping continuously in the ponds. Yasser Al-Haj notes that he is unable to breed the fish in the sea because of pollution, which poses a danger to the fish and people who eat them. The sewage processing plants aren’t working due to the power cuts and lack of maintenance resulting from the Israeli blockade.