Armed with a snorkel mask and a home-made gun shaped like a trident, and dressed in a green sweatshirt and jogging pants, Ashraf Al-Amoudi goes hunting every day in the coastal waters of Gaza.
He is one of scores of spear fishermen who scratch out a living close to shore in the Hamas Islamist-run territory, diving from boats to depths of around four metres (13 ft) without oxygen to prise oysters from the rocks and catch grouper, sea bream and mullet.
“At the beginning it was a hobby, and when I couldn’t find work it became a job and a source of living,” said Amoudi, who has been a fisherman for 13 years. Now his catch nets him an average of around $14 a day.
Gaza’s unemployment rate is around 50% and tight restrictions imposed by Israel – which cites security concerns in its conflict with Hamas – make it difficult to obtain diving equipment and sometimes force the closure of Gaza’s fishing zones.
So Amoudi and his co-workers are used to improvising. “We can repair fins, make an underwater gun, but there are things we can’t (obtain) such as fins, suits, goggles and oxygen,” he said.
He says Gaza has around 250 men who fish with spears and some 4,000 who use boats and nets, among a population of two million.