A temporary Israeli expansion of the Gaza Strip’s fishing zone has been described as insufficient by Palestinians and an Israeli NGO monitoring the ongoing blockade.
Last week, Israeli authorities announced that Gaza’s fishing zone would be expanded from six to nine nautical miles for the duration of the ‘fishing season’, reported to be through to 12 December.
According to Nizar Ayash, chair of the Gaza Fishermen’s Union, a three-mile expansion of the fishing zone is not sufficient: “Sailing to a distance of nine miles leads to additional expenses for fishermen, and there is no guarantee that the catch will be significantly greater”.
The expansion only applies to the area south of Wadi Gaza, while to the north of it, the fishing zone remains restricted to six nautical miles off the shore.
Israeli NGO Gisha says that this is the third time since so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in 2014 that the Israeli occupation authorities have announced such an expansion.
At the end of the previous expansion of the fishing zone in June, Gisha says that while Gaza fishermen reported no significant change in the quantity of fish caught, the variety of fish was greater, which helped increase profits for some.
Ayash emphasized to Gisha “that the fishing community is calling for an expansion of the fishing zone to at least 12 nautical miles off the entire Gaza shoreline”.
Gisha notes that “what Israel describes as an extension of the fishing zone is in fact a far more limited restriction than what is stipulated in the Oslo Accords, according to which Gaza’s fishing zone should have stretched 20 nautical miles off the coast”.
The fishing industry supports thousands of Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip, but has been heavily hit by Israeli-imposed restrictions which are often violently enforced. According to Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, two fishermen were killed this year at sea.