On Thursday 13 September 2012, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Foundation organized a public meeting entitled “Fishermen and the Right to Access the Fishery,” held at the Carino’s restaurant in Gaza City.
Forty-one participants including fishermen, representatives of local and international organizations, and media figures attended the meeting.
Shirin Ash-Shobaki, Coordinator of Training and Mass Communication Unit at Al Mezan, opened the meeting by thanking the participants and key speakers at the meeting: Mr.
Nizar ‘Ayyash, Chairman of Palestinian Fishermen Syndicate; Engineer Adel Atallah, General Director of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture; and Samir Al Manama, Al Mezan’s field worker.
Ash-Shobaki asserted that the meeting aims at highlighting the obstacles and risks faced by Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip due to Israeli restrictions on their movement and access to fishing areas as well as ways of supporting fishermen and protecting their rights.
Samer Al Manama spoke about Al Mezan’s role in the protection and defense of human rights in addition to the legal mechanisms which can be used to protect fishermen’s rights.
Al Manama stressed that Al Mezan continues to legally follow cases with regards every complaint filed by fishermen at Al Mezan.
He added that AL Mezan has been working to confront the maritime siege imposed on the Gaza Strip; particularly cases related to fishing and restrictions on the fishing zone.
Al Manama also illustrated the dangers involved in the commitment document which the Israeli authorities force Palestinian fishermen to sign as a condition of giving them back their boats.
Moreover, he talked about the increase in IOF’s daily violations against fishermen including damaging fishing nets, opening fire detaining them, and deliberately intercepting their fishing boats as well as confiscating them.
He concluded his speech by emphasizing that Al Merzan will continue to expose the IOP’s crimes, raise awareness about the situation of fishermen, and provide legal assistance to confront Israel’ssystematic violations.
Nizar Ayash clarified the role of the Syndicate in coordinating with local and international organizations to provide financial aid which contributes to promoting the persistence of fishermen and to enabling them to continue with their work despite the huge financial losses they have suffered.
He pointed out that the IOF chases Palestinian fishing boats even within the Israeli-imposed “fishing zone” of three nautical miles.
Engineer Adel Atallah said that there are 3,700 fishermen in the Gaza Strip and more than 1,000 fishing boats allowed an extremely narrow access to fishing areas.
This has led to a sharp decline in the livelihoods of Palestinian fishermen.
The maritime siege, he added, has caused terrible environmental conditions with more than 70 % of the fish being too small in size.
Atallah mentioned that daily loses in the fishing sector are estimated at $ 1 million per day.
Furthermore, 88% of fishermen’s families live below the poverty line, and 95% of them are classified as “insecure families.
” Participants emphasized the importance of expanding solidarity campaigns with fishermen, exposing Israeli violations, and increasing pressure and advocacy campaigns to oblige Israel to respect the law and end its flagrant and systematic violations of the International Humanitarian Law and the International Human Rights Law.
This meeting is part of the cooperation program between Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Friedrich Ebert Organization aimed at promoting economic, social and cultural rights in the Gaza Strip.