Israel eases Gaza fishing restrictions but severe obstacles remain

Israel eases Gaza fishing restrictions but severe obstacles remain
Israel expands Gaza fishing zone to nine nautical miles, but the measure only applies in the southern part of the territory and severe restrictions continue to hamper the industry.
2 min read
Before Israel's blockade there was a thriving fishing sector in Gaza. [AFP]
Israel has eased restrictions on fishermen in Gaza, Palestinian officials said on Wednesday, allowing them to travel up to nine nautical miles off the coast of the blockaded territory instead of the previous six.

The new policy was to take effect at 1200 GMT on Wednesday, said Mohammed al-Maqadma, an official from the Palestinian ministry of civil affairs that coordinates with Israeli authorities.

It will however only apply to the southern half of the Gaza Strip, he said.

Nizar Ayash, head of the Gazan fishermen's union, confirmed the change, but Israeli authorities did not immediately respond.

The size of the fishing zone has varied over the years, having been set at 20 nautical miles by the Oslo accords of the 1990s before being reduced by Israeli authorities.

Israel previously extended the fishing zone to up to nine miles for several months in 2016. It was unclear how long the new enlargement would be in place.

Prior to Israel's blockade, there was a thriving fishing sector in Gaza, with fresh produce from the area sold across Israel and the West Bank.

But Israeli restrictions on Gaza have all but crippled the fishing industry, and 95 percent of fishermen now live below the poverty line, according to rights group B'Tselem.

In 2016, Israel's military detained 113 fishermen and the navy rountinely opens fire at fishermen to enforce the limited fishing zone.

Due to the blockade, it is near impossible to obtain the parts needed to maintain fishing vessels, and since 2000 the number of fishermen has reduced by over half.