It will cost about NIS 120 million to make fish ponds more ecological and the government should bear the lion’s share of the cost, environmental NGO Zalul contends in a new analysis. The analysis will be presented at a conference on cleaning up streams and fish ponds on Thursday.The 45 fish ponds around the country use highly saline water to grow the fish, and then mostly flush the effluence down into the rivers. In addition to its high salinity, the effluence contains traces of all sorts of substances such as chemicals and antibiotics, which pollute the streams. The Jordan River, for instance, is little more than fish pond effluence and sewage from below Lake Kinneret to the Dead Sea.Other streams which neighbor fish farms include: Harud, Neeman, Hadera and some in the South.Zalul commissioned Asaf Ofer to conduct an economic analysis of the problem. According to his analysis, if the fish growers had to pay for the reform itself, it would add NIS 0.50-to-NIS 1 to the cost of the fish. With the high competition from imports, that would rip the belly out of the fish market in Israel. Therefore the government should fund most of the reform, Ofer argued – just as it did when it reformed dairy farms; and as it is doing with the chicken coops reform.The fish pond reform would also lead to as much as 17 percent savings in water, which could even make it profitable for the farms if the government pays for most of it, according to the analysis.Making fish farms more ecological would include changing the way thefish are fed, filtering the effluence, erecting settling systems,treating the sludge and the phosphorous and disinfecting, according tothe analysis.Fish farms grow fish in ponds close to streams, mostly on kibbutzim.They use 29,000 dunams (2,900 hectares) of land and about 90 millioncubic meters of water a year. They produce 18,000 tons of fish, about35% of the market. Sixty-five percent of demand is met by frozenimported fish. Nearly 75% of the fish grown are tilapia and carp, butthe farms have been branching out in recent years. Three hundred andfifty people work for the fish farms directly, and another 1,500 relyon them in some way, as drivers or packers, according to the new report.Thursday’s conference is sponsored by the Agriculture and EnvironmentalProtection Ministries, Zalul, the Fish Growers Association, and TheSamuel Neaman Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology,based at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.