Friday, June 12, 2009

A report on the situation of the fishermen, their livelihood, and necessary demands to improve their conditions

This report was released on the occasion of the demonstration on the 14th of April 2009 at the port of Gaza

Translation: Natalie Abou Shakra - ISM Gaza Strip

Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza

The fishermen are suffering from the mounting human rights violations that the IOF have them subject to, and particularly in limiting their right to reach fishing areas in the sea. in addition to that, the IOF subject the fishermen to humiliation, insults, shootings, arrest, and destruction of their fishing material and boats whilst at sea.
Since october 2000, the Israeli violations and restriction have been increasing dramatically. The IOF have announced the occupied palestinian territories as closed military zones, and have, as a result, shut the borders and imposed restrictions on the mobility of Palestinians through these borders, and particularly to the areas where Palestinians live that are at a close proximity from the settlements.
These actions have resulted in a deterioration of life and work of the Palestinian fishermen. This was particularly noticeable after the unilateral segregation plan of the IOF as related to the series of Israeli settlements from Deir el Balah and till the southern part of the Rafeh district as well as reaching the shores of the Beit lahya town. The fishermen were restricted in movement to the shores as a direct result from extreme security measures which also prohibited many fishermen from fishing.As such, the IOF began imposing a new reality on the fisherman that not only violated international humanitarian laws, but also violated the dual agreement it had signed previously with the PLO which had received international support and recognition. It is also crucial to note that the Oslo accords had stated, in its section related to fishing, the ability of the fishermen to reach up to 20 miles in Gazan sea waters, and which was labeled Region L. They were, however, restricted from entering Region K, located in the northern part of the Strip, and Region M in the southern part of the Strip. At this point, the Israeli naval gunboats took charge of guarding the regions at sea of which the agreement did not mention; that is, regions M and K. But, since October 2000, the IOF have prevented the fishermen from reaching the allowed areas as stated in the agreement, limiting the fishermen to 12 miles at sea, which got reduced gradually disallowing the fishermen from reaching areas rich in fish variety and quantity. The limit was reduced to 10 miles, to 8 miles, and then to 6 miles. However, today, the fishermen are prevented from reaching a 3 mile distance at sea, and when they do reach the limit, the IOF naval gunboats begin to shoot at and target the fishermen. It is worthy to note here that the IOF would reduce the distance within the same week, and the fishermen would have no clue about this which would jeopardize their lives. In addition to that, over the last eight years, the occupation forces would not allow the fishermen from getting to the sea for months. Also, on the 15th of September 2005 the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the Strip did not leave more freedom to the fishermen in their work, but, rather, more restrictions.
The occupation forces have turned the lives of the Palestinian fishermen into a living hell. First, the fishermen cannot turn to other employment opportunities, because they are already extinct due to Israeli doings which have left tens of thousands of workers incapable of reaching the work place within the green line, and have caused the destruction of industries and trades. and demolished tens of thousands of agricultural land. The IOF have completed their work by completely destroying the Palestinian national industrial sector by an intense siege that has resulted in humanitarian consequences in the last two years. More so, many fishermen have got debts and fees that they are obliged to pay which do not give a chance in finding another kind of work, but place them under those who are in need of it.
The Palestinian fisherman, as a result, faces two options: either to leave his work and face the ghoul of poverty and need, or continue fishing but baring the most severe of circumstances and subject himself to violations and life-threatening situations which might cause him his life. All this is in the shadow of incapability of the international community to provide him and the other Palestinian citizens the protection and safety necessary and the sense that the occupation forces are beyond any law which actually allows them to perpetuate their violations and crimes against the 3500 fishermen and 2000 workers whom are linked with the fishing industry one way or another, knowing that the number of fishing boats is around 700, including 17 big boats, 110 langes, and the rest hasakas.
What needs mentioning again, is that the occupation forces intensifies the restrictions on the fishermen's mobility and reduces the distances allowed for them, and, at many times, forbids them from being at sea particularly in fishing seasons. To note here is the fact that there are no fish farming in the Gaza sea, but that the fishermen depend on the availability occurring in fishing seasons which witnesses the migration of fish from a place to another whilst passing through the Gazan sea water.
Also to note is that the siege and blockade imposed on the Strip by the occupation forces has affected the fishermen's work negatively and especially due to the scarcity of fuel and cooking gas, in addition to fishing equipment and materials.
The Israeli violations' affects on fishermen can be summarized as follows:
1. Imposing a sea blockade forbidding them from merely getting to the sea
2. Reducing the distance that allows them to reach areas where there is a decent quantity and quality of fish , and limits their work to areas that result in catching a quantity of fish not sufficient enough to cover the costs of the fishing trip which leads to fishing being fruitless and non-productive to the fisherman
3. confronting the fishermen at sea and subjecting them to arrest and searching them
4. shooting at the fishing boats to oblige fishermen to sail back to shore knowing that in many cases the fishermen would not have even surpassed the reduced distance imposed
5. attacking the fishing boats and forcing the fishermen to remove their clothes and swim to the israeli naval gunboats, and spraying high pressured sewage liquid from water canons at them in the aim of humiliating them
6. arresting fishermen and dragging their boats to the israel ports, sometimes even leaving the fishermen stranded in the sea with no fuel in their boats to get back ashore, not mentioning the humiliation of interrogation, and the harsh and inhumane treatment they are subject to
The Mezan centre for human rights has documented 265 kinds of attacks on the fishermen whilst fishing since 1999, causing the death of 2 fishermen, injuring 15 others, and arresting 225.
More so, the IOF have targeted fishing boats varying in size, destroying many of them, or have kept and not returned tens of them. All this without mentioning the restriction on the movement of fishermen in their boats, particularly the larger boats, the scarcity of fuel, inavailability of machine parts, needing new nets, cooking gas for light on the boat at night of which destroy the fishing activities.
Losses counted by sources from the general administration for the location of fish population density show that each day's loss reaches around 41,000 dollars. In addition to this, other losses of around 25,000 dollars daily are a direct result of fishermen unable to sell the good quality fish, that are higher in prices than other kinds, to areas beyond the green line, or to the West Bank, which obliges the fishermen to store the fish in freezers that declines the original price and value, when sold whilst still fresh. It is important to mention that the blockade and siege, in addition to restricting the movement of fishermen, culminate in 3000 families not being able to receive their daily needs. Those familes are entirely dependent on the fishing industry and fish trade.
Israeli policies and doings have also resulted in huge loses in fishing resources and sea fishing where fishermen have lost days of work as a result of the IOF forbidding them to work in area rich in fish. Also, accoridng to many fishermen sources, the IOF usually blocks access to the sea, and thus fishing, on days where the fishing seasons are at, particularly when there is a migration of fish. This has resulted in the fishing sector losing 16.5 million dollars.
Despite these drastic losses, there are no official, internaitonal or civil party that helped in compensating the fishermen, or provide financial aid to help in supporting them and their endurance in the face of al l this. Also, despite the perpetual mounting violations against the fishermen, there has been no official call for the protection of fishermen against the IOF naval gunboats.
Based on what was mentioned herein, the below signed associations demand the following from international, civil and officical associations:
1. to work on facilitating the movement of fishermen at sea and expand the area allowed for them to fish in. also, to work on the protection and safety of the Palestinian fishermen at sea and facilitating their accessability to areas rich in fish by allowing them to get to distant areas at sea, and guaranteeing them no attack by the IOF naval gunboats. This will neccessitate efforts on all behalfs, primarily pressure grouos and mass mobilization, in an aim for awareness on the reality of fishing and fishermen in the Strip and the crimes made against them.
2. the need for the concerned parties and officials to legislate laws and codes that organize the fishing processes and provide protection for areas rich in natural fishing resources
3. the need to take advantage of internation laws that organize the fishing processes, which will standardize the role of the occupation forces and Egypt in the fishing processes, their role, and the areas allowed to be in
4. the forming of a union of specialists and professionals to organize any procedures or decisions as to the fishing processes
5. to work on the innovation of the Palestinian fishing boats, which includes the reconstruction and fixing of the damaged boats. Also, to work on the operations of the ports, preparing them up-to-date materials serving better a fishing process. In addtion, to launch workshops specializing in the bettering of fishing proccesses, making ice and other neccessary storage materials available.
6. finding an appropriate method of financially supporting the fishermen, in their striving to fish, and supporting their resistance and endurance, and their insistence on continueing fishing, particularly those fishermen whose boats or fishing equipment have been damaged

The Internation Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza, in collaboration with the following civil society organizations:
1. the "Tawfiq" organization for fishermen
2. the General syndicate for fishermen
3. organization for the fishing and other sports at sea
4. the Mezan centre for human rights
6. the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
7. Agricultural Development Organization PARC
8. Medical Relief Society
9. the Association of Palestinian hydrologists
10. Ma'an- the centre for developmental work