Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic bottle boat
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Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic bottle boat

The 700-bottle craft is capable of carrying up to eight people out to sea, according to its skipper

  • Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid repairs his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
    Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid repairs his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
  • Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid (R) and his friends carry his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
    Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid (R) and his friends carry his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
  • Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid and his friends ride on his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles in the sea in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
    Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid and his friends ride on his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles in the sea in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
  • Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid (R) and his friend work on his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
    Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid (R) and his friend work on his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
  • Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid (L) shows his catch of the day on his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 15, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
    Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid (L) shows his catch of the day on his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles on a beach in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 15, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

GAZA CITY (AFP) — 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 to seven kilograms (11 to 15 pounds) of sardines, mullet and other small fish with his rod.

He sells his catch to passersby on the nearby corniche, making between NIS 20 and 40 ($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 descendant of refugees from a village near Jaffa in present-day Israel.

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

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in 2007. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Egypt, too, has kept its Gaza border crossing largely closed during several years of sour relations with the Islamist group ruling Gaza.

Under the blockade Gaza suffers 44 percent unemployment, rising to a “staggering” 60% among 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-kilometer (25-mile) coast line 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.

Palestinian fisherman Mouad Abu Zeid and his friends pull out his boat that he made of 700 Plastic empty bottles from the sea in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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