Environment Minister Moves to Protect Endangered Fish

A man takes picture on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon. (Flash90)

Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin has updated the list of endangered species in Israel to include several species of fish that require protection. Elkin is also lobbying the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to include the species on its list of endangered fish as well.

Calling the move “historic,” Elkin’s office said that the updated list will include protections for Mediterranean bluefin tuna and a local species of grouper. According to the Environment Ministry, some 90 percent of those two species have been wiped out due to overfishing. The inclusion of the fish on the list of endangered species will place strict limits on the fishing of those species in Israeli waters, and harsh penalties for those caught violating the limits.

One reason the fish are endangered is that they are harvested during the spawning stage, and as a result new generations of fish are not hatched. The protections to be extended will included designating areas that fishing of the species will be off-limits altogether, to provide the species with an opportunity to grow their populations. In addition, the inclusion of the fish on the IUCN’s “red list” of endangered species will extend protection of the fish to other countries as well.

The large majority of the fish are not harvested by Israeli fishermen. Israel gets just 2 percent of its ocean fish catch from the Mediterranean. Bluefin tuna and grouper constitute just 10 percent of all fish sold in Israel, and 90 percent of those species are imported. Elkin’s office said that restoring the population of fish will improve the environmental balance in the Mediterranean, which has been damaged by overfishing in recent years.