Dozens of manta rays were laid out Monday on a beach in the blockaded Gaza Strip as local Palestinian fishermen celebrated the mass catch.
The rare fish flock to the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Gaza every year in March and April.
As well as being fished, many appear to wash up on the shores there and are then collected by locals who are desperate to make money. They can sell for around 12 shekels ($3.30) per kilo.
Fishing is a major commercial activity in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-led blockade since 2007, when Islamist movement Hamas took over the territory.
In their latest flurry, fisherman Bashir Shoueikh caught more than 10 of the rays, each weighing between 200 and 300 kg (440-660 pounds).
Shocking pictures show people gathered on a beach in Gaza city as dozens of manta ray are laid out
‘Each boat carries between 20 and 30 of these fish,’ Shoueikh told AFP. ‘People like them a lot.’
The fishing zone off Gaza, determined by Israel, varies from five to 16 nautical miles, depending on the security situation.
There are two species of manta ray – manta alfredi and manta birostris.
The majestic creatures’ wingspans can be up to 18ft for the alfredi variety and as much as 23ft for the larger birostris.
Both are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species due to their dwindling numbers.
‘These manta rays have been washing up for years now,’ another fisherman, Bashir Shuwaikh, told euronews.
‘Every year, a large quantity of these fish wash up since it’s currently their season. Each boat carries between 20 and 30 of this fish.
‘They come out for the duration of a month approximately and we catch them daily, as long as the weather is warm,’ he explained.
People gather at a beach in Gaza City around Manta Rays caught by Palestinian fishermen near to the coast
Gaza fishermen catch the rare, endangered rays when they pass offshore during their winter migration
Fishermen are seen dragging one of the rays out of the sea as people gather to watch
Other shocking photos show small children playing with and sitting on the dead manta rays
A little boy seemingly helps fishermen to drag the rays up the sand and line them up on the beach
Manta rays are considered ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which categorises them in its red list. Their primary threat is overfishing.
While there is limited popularity for the creatures’ meat, their gills are often used in Chinese medicine and to filter plankton.
Pictures from the latest fishing frenzy in Gaza show crowds gathering to haul the fish out of the sea, using ropes which they wrap around their wings.
Palestinian vendors gather to buy the manta rays on the beach of Gaza City
They then appear to be dragged up the beach before being laid out on the sand.
Rays’ remains are also loaded onto awaiting carts, being pulled by horses seemingly to transport the carcasses to markets.
Gory photos show the rays’ carcasses covering sandy beaches, with some of them bloodied as fishermen pluck them out of the sea.
Palestinian fishermen carry maimed manta ray carcasses on a horse cart, ready to be sold
The mass hunt went on into the evening as pictures show boats approaching the manta-covered shore
Other shocking photos show children playing with and sitting on the dead beasts, as well as helping men to drag them up the beach.
The mass hunt went on into the evening as pictures show boats returning to the manta-covered shore at dusk.
Mantas are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are much more vulnerable closer to shore, as these pictures evidence.