Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
Connect the World

Fishermen trawl under Israeli navy scrutiny

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
Click to play
Sea shrinks for Gaza fishermen
  • Israeli navy keep watchful eye on Gaza fishermen
  • They are only allowed to work three nautical miles off shore
  • Fishermen say they risk being fired on by the navy if they break the limit
  • Gaza
  • Israel

Gaza City (CNN) -- Sunrise over Gaza City illuminates a flurry of activity as fishermen come in from a long night on the sea and unload their catch to be taken straight to market.

A fisherman's life can be difficult in any country, but in Gaza there are added complications: Israeli restrictions.

From a Palestinian fishing limit of 20 nautical miles in 1993 set by the Oslo Peace accords, Israel has whittled it down over the years to three nautical miles.

Israel tells CNN it is a security precaution to prevent weapons from being smuggled into Gaza and to prevent Hamas and other militant groups from launching attacking on Israel from the sea.

That leaves 3,500 fishermen to comb an area of 75 square miles. To say this part of the Mediterranean Sea is over-fished would be a stark understatement.

Mahfouz Kabariti, a former fisherman said: "Sometimes the fisherman doesn't know if he has arrived exactly at three miles because there is no equipment like GPS, they have old equipment and some of it is damaged."

Some boats were damaged during Israel's three-week military operation in Gaza starting last December.

Many fishermen struggle to make repairs as fishing equipment and nets have been in short supply since Israel's blockade on the territory.

Heading out onto Gaza's sea, there are fishing boats in every direction with Israeli navy boats in the distance.

The captain of one fishing boat told us their catches are small, that they were far healthier when they were allowed to fish deeper.

He said: "Once we risked going a little further as there were no fish. We tried to cross the border a little but the Israeli navy came and started shooting at us... we had to leave the area."

The Israeli military says it only shoots as a warning but former fisherman Sammy al Gouga disagrees.

He said he lost his hand two years ago while fishing close to Gaza's shores. He said he heard heavy artillery shooting at sea and got back onto dry land but the Israeli navy kept shooting.

While mending his nets, al Gouga's brother bitterly asks why no-one is trying to help Palestinian fishermen.

Those we spoke with said they have no interest in the resistance as they call it. They said they were just trying to catch enough fish to put food on the table.