SPNI files High Court petition against Agriculture Ministry demanding fishing reforms

"We must save the ecological system of the Mediterranean Sea from collapse – 100,000 protected animals die every year in the sea, as a result of uncontrolled fishing," a statement from SPNI said.

March 1, 2015 19:09
2 minute read.

Fresh fish . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel demanded that Agriculture Ministry officials take immediate actions to stop the deterioration of Israel’s Mediterranean Coast, in a petition filed to the High Court of Justice on Sunday.

“We must save the ecological system of the Mediterranean Sea from collapse – 100,000 protected animals die every year in the sea, as a result of uncontrolled fishing,” a statement from SPNI said.

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The environmental organization filed the petition specifically against both the Agriculture Ministry itself and its fishery and aquaculture division, requesting that they be required to apply stricter conditions to fishing licenses – to improve the condition of fish and other animals in the Mediterranean Sea. Timing for the petition submission was key, as SPNI also hopes to achieve a fishing ban for the duration of the marine breeding seasons, which typically lasts from April through June, the organization said.

The Agriculture Ministry renewed commercial fishing licenses in January, without adding any limitations or restrictions to their text, despite repeated warnings regarding the grave situation of the sea, the petitioners argued.

Over a year ago, SPNI launched a “Fishing Responsibly” campaign that insisted upon the need for fishing reforms – attempting to fight against the presence of large fishing trawlers that they say are both dangerous to the ecosystem and to the livelihood of small, independent fishing boats.

At the time, SPNI said that the 22 fishing trawlers operating along the coast were “sweeping” and “ensnaring” a multitude of living creates, including turtles, dolphins, and young fish, many of which were not old enough to proliferate and generate another generation of fish. Fishing associations teamed up with SPNI in the campaign, as many fisherman are choosing no longer to go out to sea due to the decreasing fish population and resulting plummet in income.

In May, the Agriculture Ministry announced that it was committed to reducing trawling activity, and unveiled elements of a fishing industry master plan. The plan drafted by the ministry called for requiring the use of smaller nets and forcing trawlers to work farther from shore. In addition, the ministry said it favors incentivizing trawler operators to leave their current businesses for the aquaculture industry.

After the ministry announced these elements, SPNI expressed concern that no detailed portions of the plans had been revealed, and demanded that a more comprehensive reform system be published, including information as to how the ministry aims to enforce its plans.

On Sunday, SPNI explained that, after conducting long discussions with the Agriculture Ministry, with the assistance of local and international experts, the resultant “inaction” led the organization to file the High Court petition.

In response, the Agriculture Ministry said it had not yet formally received the petition, and would provide a reaction only after a studying the petition’s contents.

“It is important to point out that the Agriculture Ministry is working on an amendment to existing regulations in favor of regulating many issues in the fishing sector,” a statement from the ministry said. “These days the office is hard at work in preparing a set of new regulations including, among other things, restrictions on the depth of fish trawlers and the arrangement of commercial and sport activities of fishing at sea.

“In addition, it should be noted that the ministry prohibits fishing while diving during the locus breeding seasons, limits the ships and their towing power and restricts fishing trawlers to a water depth of 15 meters,” the ministry statement added.

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