Gaza fishermen head to sea after Israel expands fishing zone

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza fishermen returned Monday from a 15-hour sail to sea after Israel expanded the coastal strip’s fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles.

The head of the Gaza fishermen’s union Zakareya Bakr said haul was still rather paltry, with some 280 boats snatching up an average of eight kilograms (17 Ibs.) each. He said the catch included red mullet, sea bream, grouper and some small rays.

To prevent squabbling over fishing rights, Hamas — the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza — ordered that whoever reaches a new spot first can claim fishing rights in the area.

Israel set a three-mile limit in 2007 after Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in bloody street battles. It expanded it to six after an eight-day war with Hamas in 2012 and the new maritime perimeter expands the fishing zone an additional three miles off parts of Gaza.

“Fishing in six miles is like fishing in a swimming pool,” said fisherman Shaker Salah. “Expanding it provides an open space, which is better.”