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Gaza fishermen want change to siege

June 28, 2010 3:41 P.M. (Updated: June 29, 2010 12:38 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Gaza's Fishers Union met Sunday at its headquarters in an effort to jointly articulate specific concerns and problems faced by fishermen, and propose solutions.

Union leader Saed Zyadeh said the meeting would be a venue to air concerns, and added that the union would do its best to raise those issues with local officials and international actors, if possible.

Zyadeh said he expected that the overwhelming issue would be the continual attacks by Israeli forces against fishing boats that venture outside the unilaterally-imposed three-mile fishing limit.

Fishermen have said it is next to impossible to take in a large catch within the Israeli-imposed limit, so many venture into deeper waters hoping for a larger haul. The risk has often cost fishermen their lives, or at least their boats, which are confiscated by Israeli naval officers and not often returned.

When Zyadeh collects the complaints and concerns of his union members, he said he intends to take them to human rights organizations and demand more protection for workers.

In 1995, the Oslo Accords mandated a 20-nautical mile limit to Gaza waters, more than enough space for the thousands of fishers who make their living off Gaza's coast. In 2002 and in the wake of violence during the Second Intifada, the Bertini sought to assuage Israeli concerns about weapons smuggling and reduced the sea-area under Gaza control to 12 nautical miles, just enough for fishers to maintain their livelihoods.

In 2006, Israel unilaterally decided to reduce the fishing limit to 6 nautical miles, during its war with Lebanon and following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Gaza resistance factions.

A second unilateral decision saw the fishing area reduced to three nautical miles during Israel's war on Gaza in December-January 2008-9.

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