Gaza fishermen reap rewards as restrictions eased

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) — Palestinian fishermen in Gaza say they are already seeing the benefits of an extended fishing zone, with thousands of kilograms of fresh produce caught only days after Tuesday's ceasefire agreement.

Fishermen say they have brought home a varied catch of sardines, squid, shrimps, crabs and lax to Gaza's markets since Tuesday, with some varieties of fish unavailable for years due to Israeli restrictions.

Muhammad Abu Arab, a local fisherman, told Ma'an that "when these huge amounts of fish are available the demand increases and we sell it for cheaper prices. We can hardly wait to be allowed to fish 9 or 12 miles (from the coast)."

"We could not even see these types of fish when we were allowed only three miles out," he added.

Fisherman Faraj Qasem said he now sells shrimp for 35 shekels per kilo, compared to previous prices of up to 70 shekels due to a scarcity in produce.

"We carried one thousand kilograms of fish on the boat today," Qasem said, adding that this quantity and variety of fish is simply unavailable 3 miles from the coast.

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Secretary-General of the Union of Fishermen Muhammad Basala told Ma'an this week that fishermen will be allowed to sail out as far as nine nautical miles a week from now and 12 miles after a month from now following the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

Prior to the recent agreement, Israeli forces maintained a limit of three nautical miles on all Gaza fishermen, despite earlier Israeli agreements which had settled on a 20-mile limit. The restrictions crippled Gaza's fishing industry and impoverished local fishermen.

Fishermen were routinely shot at by Israeli naval forces if they ventured past the restricted zone.

Reported by Ma'an News Agency August 29, 2014 at http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=724134

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