At Gaza’s main port, fishermen cluster around their boats and get ready for the new fishing season.
The sea is their livelihood and a part of life. “It’s is a father and a mother to me,” explains 52-yar-old Issa Abu Amira, who has spent 45 years as a fisherman. “The sea is my soul mate, I talk to him every day and listen to his waves. Fishing is the only way I know to earn a living.”
Fishing has been in Issa’s family for generations. He has his own boat and a small business and passes on his skills and knowledge to his six sons. In 1996, he borrowed $5,000 from ANERA to repair the boat engine and purchase equipment. “I had to repair holes in my boat five or six times before I went out,” Issa says. “We heard about fishing boats sinking during windy and dark nights.”
Issa took another loan from ANERA in 2005 to expand his business. At the beginning of this season, he has hired fishermen to help.
Over the past five years, some boats and equipment have fallen into disrepair. The 3,500 fishermen of Gaza are allowed only limited access to the beach and the fishing area is restricted to four miles along the coast. Fishermen say this is not enough to reach the sardine shoals, an especially important area since the number of fish in the Mediterranean has dropped considerably in recent years.
The fishermen also lack permission to export their catch from Gaza, limiting their overall access to markets.
With funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development program, ANERA has eased their plight by offering loans ranging from $3,000 to $8,000 to help the fishermen continue working. In 2005 and 2006, the loans helped them purchase 65 (fishing boats, 30 engines, 31 nets, and other gear, as well as maintain the boats.
“These loans make a big difference in our lives,” Issa says as he pulls his nets into his boat and prepares to head out to sea.