OCHA Report: Restrictions sea access are taking a heavy toll on Gaza’s fishing industry

The November 2011 report published by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) documents the continued decline of Gaza’s fishing industry, caused by the restrictions Israel imposes on access to Gaza’s territorial waters. The Israeli navy prohibits movement of boats, including fishing vessels, beyond three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast. This restriction is enforced by firing warning shots at boats that sail beyond the permitted zone. Four fishermen have been killed and 17 injured as a result of these shootings.

According to the report, the shrinking fishing areas have led to overfishing in shallow coastal waters and a depletion of fish breeding grounds. As a result, only 3,097 fishermen are registered in the Gaza Strip today, as opposed to about 10,000 in 2000. Half the fishermen depend on the bi-annual sardine season, yet due to access restrictions, the sardine catch has decreased further every year, and reached its lowest point in 12 years in 2011.