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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Gaza fisherman crafts plastic bottle boat to land a catch

Father of four binds 700 containers to form vessel that can carry eight people

Mohammed Abu Zeid (left) and Mouath Abu Zeid (right), fishermen from Gaza, are seen with their boat constructed from plastic bottles. Majd Mahmoud for The National
Mohammed Abu Zeid (left) and Mouath Abu Zeid (right), fishermen from Gaza, are seen with their boat constructed from plastic bottles. Majd Mahmoud for The National

Amid a crippling siege in Gaza, one man is using the enclave’s rubbish to make himself a living. Fisherman Mouath Abu Zeid now boasts a floating craft strapped with 700 plastic bottles that allows him and his fellow Gazans to trawl the territory’s Mediterranean coastline.

The 35-year-old used to work as a house painter, but as Israel continues to close Gaza’s goods crossing and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank cuts salaries and jobs, he has had to look for other means to feed his four children.

“I surfed the internet and found on YouTube how to make a boat from simple material and, because I don't have enough money to start any other business, I started to search how to build a boat from plastic empty bottles,” he told The National from the southern city of Rafah, where he collected the litter.

Using thread from damaged fishing nets and the scores of bottles, Mouath spent 20 days building the plastic craft at a cost of $40. He picked out containers from Rafah that are similar in size for balance.

The boat, on which a brown wooden board has been placed, can sail far enough out to sea to catch around one to two kilogrammes of various kinds of fish per day – mostly tuna, crabs and mullet fish – using rods and nets.

"I can't go more than two kilometres inside the sea because I propel the boat by using oars and it's so heavy and hard for me,” he said.

Mouath and his two brothers, Mohammad and Ashraf, then cook the catch for their families or sell it to passersby on the Gaza corniche, making up to $10 on a good day.

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"This boat is a source of income for four families,” Mohammad says. “If you want to live in Gaza you have to be a creator and a fighter”.

Three or four people can work on the boat, but it can carry eight people to sea. Mouath plans to develop the plastic skiff so it can travel another kilometre to sea, using a generator that will convert it into a motorboat.

Israel has imposed a naval blockade on Gaza’s coastline, restricting the fishing zone to six nautical miles, but allowing it to extend to nine nautical miles for the spring fishing season. While the boat cannot travel that far, Mohammad says both he and his brothers are prepared for the worst at sea.

"We are good swimmers in case something happens to the boat. It is not so safe, especially with the high waves and variability of the sea,” he admitted. “But we are trying to do something from nothing”.