Gaza fishermen celebrate catching dozens of endangered manta rays
Rare fish weighing up to 660 pounds flock to Mediterranean waters each spring, are sold for meat in Palestinian enclave
Dozens of manta rays were laid out Monday on a beach in the Gaza Strip as local Palestinian fishermen celebrated the mass catch.
The rare fish flock to the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Gaza during their winter migration every year in March and April.
Fishing is a major commercial activity in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, when the Hamas terrorist group took over the territory in a bloody battle with the Palestinian Authority.
Fisherman Bashir Shoueikh caught more than 10 of the rays, each weighing between 200 and 300 kg (440-660 pounds).
They sell for around 12 shekels ($3.30) per kilo.
“Each boat carries between 20 and 30 of these fish,” Shoueikh told AFP. “People like them a lot.”
Photos from the scene showed the massive, bloodied creatures being slaughtered, hacked apart and hauled away on horse-drawn carts.
The fishermen said they were aware the rays are protected, but claimed Israel’s blockade forced them to harvest the animals, according to the AP.
The fishing zone off Gaza, determined by Israel, varies from five to 16 nautical miles, depending on the security situation. Despite the restrictions, Gazan fishermen have significantly increased their haul in the years since the blockade was put in place.
Israel maintains the blockade to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons.
The two species of manta ray — manta alfredi and manta birostris — are both on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species due to their declining numbers.