Anybody in Israel who watched the news clip a few days ago about the current situation of the fishing industry in Israel, can see that it has definitely seen better days. Shown on Channel 2, the section included interviews with several commercial fishermen at both the Kishon and Jaffa fishing ports, Israel’s two main fishing ports. The story of the fishermen who berth their boats at the heavily polluted Kishon River (pictured) was especially sad as this port used to provide incomes for both Arab and Jewish fishermen who had sailed into the Mediterranean daily for decades, and perhaps hundreds of years, to catch a variety of fish that were sold in open air fish markets in both Haifa and Acre.
Those few remaining “Diagim” (fisherman) said that their daily catches are now a fraction of what they were even 20 years ago, when fishing was still an economically worthwhile endeavor. Even the types of fish being caught are fewer and fewer, and due to the dangers of the pollution literally pouring into the Kishon from both industrial and municipal waste are making the remaining fish unsafe to eat. It’s understandable that anything being caught in Haifa Bay is contaminated, due to the ‘pristine’ waters of the Kishon flowing into the Mediterranean containing high levels of chemical and metallic substances, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide, and a number of petroleum based pollutants, as well as pesticides. All of these pollutants are in addition to ‘normal’ river pollutants such as detergents, human sewage, and other ‘lovely’ substances such as wastes from food and beverage processing plants.
The situation at the Old Jaffa Port, one of the oldest fishing ports in the world still in operation, is not much better. This port, which has been in existence for perhaps 3,000 years, used to support a large number of families living in historic Jaffa; now a part of metro Tel Aviv. Though there is not the Kishon River to contend with, there is a serious pollution problem from both the Yarkon river, in North Tel Aviv, as well as wholesale dumping of sewage and other pollutants into the Mediterranean from industries who connect their waste piping to the already overloaded municipal sewage disposal network, with frequent disastrous results. Many of the fishing boats in this port sit sadly moored to their pier, and wholesale fish markets located nearby offer less and less varieties of sea fish, with much of their offerings consisting of pond raised fish such as carp, grey mullet, and St. Peters fish (also called ‘musht’ or Amnon).
Even local sport fisherman are complaining that they do not catch nearly what could be found by fishing off the quays and jetties of both Jaffa and Haifa; not to mention numerous locations along Israel’s long Mediterranean seacoast. Many species of fish that were once quite common are now rarely seen or have disappeared altogether.
To combat the substantial decrease of fish along Israel’s seacoast, Ministry of Agriculture and Nature Protection authorities are seriously considering placing a one or two year moratorium on commercial fishing; or until the numbers of local salt water fish can recuperate themselves. This might be a partial solution; but what really needs to be done is find better ways to combat the pollution in a body of water that is almost completely enclosed; and whose only link to the Atlantic Ocean is the very narrow Straits of Gibraltar, making the Mediterranean one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. Though Israel isn’t entirely responsible for the marked decrease in the “Med’s” marine life, Israeli authorities, and the general public, are responsible for the amount of pollutants which are dumped daily into the sea.
There has to be some way for both Israel and other nations who share sea coasts on the Mediterranean to find ways to restore this body of water to what it was in former years. The fishing dilemmas that our country faces is no less urgent than other Mediterranean countries as we’re all fishing in the same ‘pond’.