On August 14, 2022 Israel blocked all sale of fish from Gaza in the West Bank for three weeks. According to a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, the ban was imposed after a truck was caught transporting fish from Gaza in Israel, which Israeli authorities deemed “non-compliant with the rules for the transport of goods originating in Gaza in its territory.”
Israel’s response to the incident was sweeping and draconian. First, they halted the transport of fish from Gaza to the West Bank via Kerem Shalom Crossing, the only crossing through which goods can be shipped out of Gaza for sale in Israel or the West Bank. Several weeks later, in part following communications (Hebrew) from Gisha, Israel reinstated sales, but under an extremely limited monthly quota.
Prior to the quota, there was no restriction on the quantity of fish from Gaza permitted for sale in the West Bank. The new quota was initially set at just 40 tons per month: less than a quarter of the amount of fish sold previously. From January to July 2022, prior to the introduction of the restrictions, 150 tons of fish from Gaza were sold in the West Bank each month.
On November 7, 2022, fish sales were halted again after Israeli authorities said they had intercepted a truck that was smuggling fish intended for sale in the West Bank into Israel. Israel again chose collectively punish Gaza’s entire fishing sector, even though its claims were made against a limited number of people. Sales were not renewed until the end of December 2022.
At the beginning of February 2023, Israel slightly increased the monthly quota to about 60 tons. On February 13, 2023, about two weeks after the quota increase, which did little to meet the needs of fish suppliers, the Israeli authorities at Kerem Shalom turned away seven pallets of fish (about 15 tons). Fish suppliers in Gaza told Gisha that they were told that the shipment exceeded the quota for sales in Gaza which had been reached, even though coordination had already been approved. Gaza fishermen once again absorbed the losses. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the monthly quota was increased to about 80 tons per month in May.
Weeks of a blanket ban followed by arbitrary quotas on the sale of fish from Gaza in the West Bank have caused immense harm to Gaza’s fishing industry – a crucial sector in the Strip. According to Khalil (real name withheld), a fish supplier, the impact is dramatic: “We’ve been suffering terribly from Israel’s new restrictions. The small quota that’s been put in place is divided among several fish suppliers, and every one of them can sell much less than they could before. This is a significant economic blow that we could not have anticipated. I live within these conditions set for me, and over which I have no control. We’ve sustained a lot of financial damage during this time, and I’ve even had to let workers go.”
Israel’s continued insistence on setting quotas for the amount of Gaza fish that may be sold in the West Bank is unreasonable and disproportionate given the severe violation of the rights of Gaza’s fishermen and fish suppliers to work, to livelihood, to dignity and to freedom of movement. Incremental increases in the quota are not enough to meet the needs of Gaza’s fishing sector.
Israel must immediately end this collective punishment and lift the quota limiting the sale of fish from Gaza in the West Bank.
* Updated in August 2023.