Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic-bottle boat

Palestinian fisherman Muath Abu Zeid, second from left, whose boat is made of 700 empty plastic bottles, sells his catch to passersby on the nearby corniche in Gaza, making between $5 and $11 a day. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic-bottle boat

  • A broad slab of wood lashed to the top serves as a seat, allowing Abu Zeid to row a few hundred meters out from shore — far enough to go fishing.
  • Many in Gaza depend on fishing for a living, despite Israel enforcing a fishing zone limited to 9 miles in the south

GAZA: With hundreds of empty plastic bottles collected from the shores of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, fisherman Muath Abu Zeid has turned litter into a floating source of income.

The Palestinian father-of-four used glue and old nets to bind the bottles into a small fishing boat that he hopes will help him support his family.

Simple but effective, the 700-bottle craft is capable of carrying up to eight people out to sea, according to its 35-year-old skipper.

A broad slab of wood lashed to the top serves as a seat, allowing Abu Zeid to row a few hundred meters out from shore — far enough to go fishing.

It takes him about eight hours to pull in between five and seven kg of sardines, mullet and other small fish with his rod.

He sells his catch to passersby on the nearby corniche, making between 20 and 40 shekels ($5-$11) a day. Muath’s two younger brothers — Mohammed, 23, and Ashraf, 20 — accompany him on his daily excursions. Neither were able to find work elsewhere.

“I’m a house painter but because of the difficult situation I’m unemployed,” said skipper Muath, a descendent of refugees from a village near Jaffa in present-day Israel.

“So this boat has been a lifesaver for me and my family.”

Under a crippling Israeli blockade for more than a decade, Gaza suffers 44 percent unemployment, rising to a “staggering” 60 percent amongst the young, according to 2017 World Bank figures.

The coastal enclave’s electricity crisis means sewage is often pumped directly into the sea, leaving its 40-km coastline heavily polluted.

Yet many in Gaza depend on fishing for a living, despite Israel enforcing a fishing zone limited to nine nautical miles in the south of the enclave and just six nautical miles in the north, near Israel. Muath picked up the idea for the boat on YouTube, where he saw hobbyists designing boats using plastic bottles discarded by holidaymakers on beaches.

“I appreciated the idea and said to myself, why not preserve the environment and create a living for me and my family — and that’s what happened,” he said.

The craft cost him about $150, borrowed from his father.

He hopes to buy a fishing net soon, “so that I can pull in larger amounts of fish, sell them and live a decent life”.

The craft is fragile and he’s hemmed in by the frontier with neighboring Egypt, but he says the waters along the border have plenty of fish waiting to be caught.


Golden Globe Race seek to rescue injured Indian sailor

The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy. (goldengloberace)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Golden Globe Race seek to rescue injured Indian sailor

  • The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy

PARIS: The organizers of the round-the-world Golden Globe Race said Saturday they were scrambling to rescue missing Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy, but admitted he was “as far from help as you can possibly be.”
Tomy’s yacht Thuriya had its mast broken off when it was rolled in a storm on Friday and the yachtsman suffered what he called “a severe back injury.”
The organizers described him as “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat” and his yacht is 2,000 miles (3,704 kilometers) off the coast of Perth, Western Australia.
On Saturday, he managed to send a message saying: “Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat... Sat phone down.”
The organizers said on the race website: “The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy who is as far from help as you can possibly be.”
Tomy, a 39-year-old commander in the Indian navy, is able to communicate using a YB3 texting unit but his primary satellite phone is damaged.
He has a second satellite phone and a handheld VHF radio packed in an emergency bag, but organizers said he was unable to reach it for the moment.
The organizers said they had urged him to try to get to the bag because it could be crucial in making contact with a plane from Australia and an Indian air force plane which might be able to fly over the area.
Given the distance from land, the planes will not be able to spend long in the area, the organizers added.
A French fishing boat was also heading to the scene “but may not arrive for a few days.”
The Golden Globe Race involves a gruelling 30,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe in yachts similar to those used in the first race 50 years ago, with no modern technology allowed except the communication equipment.
Tomy’s own yacht is a replica of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhail, winner of the first Golden Globe Race.