Status Update: Fish Responsibly Campaign

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel continues its campaign to preserve Israel's fisheries

In the November 2014, as part of SPNI’s “Fish Responsibly” campaign, a private members’ bill was submitted in the Knesset enact much needed reforms for Israel’s fishing industry. The bill was signed by 22 Knesset members from across the political spectrum. For the past two years, SPNI has been campaigning to revitalize Israel’s deteriorating fishing industry, with two main goals: to reform an industry that had seen a 45% decline in catch over the past fifteen years and to significantly reduce the number of endangered fish caught by Israeli trawlers.

 

If adopted the bill will update Israel’s antiquated 1937 fishing law by: defining an overall vision for the fishing industry, creating no-trawling zones, establishing a fishing moratorium during breeding season, setting fishing quotas and empowering enforcement bodies.  Twenty-two large trawlers are responsible for much of the damage with as much as 70% of their catch below minimum breeding size, limiting fish stock’s ability to reproduce at sustainable levels. Bottom trawling also causes damage to the sea bed. The trawlers are responsible for a disproportionate amount of fish catches, about 65%, while employing less than 10% of Israeli fishermen, leading to the destruction of livelihoods. Each year, trawlers' indiscriminate nets illegally catch approximately 100,000 sea creatures from protected species, including 2,500 sea turtles. Because fishing seasons are not regulated many fish are caught when they are very young, before they have time to reproduce, causing severe declines in the populations and the quality of the catches. Regulating trawlers, establishing restricted seasons and setting quotas, together with a capable enforcement body are internationally proven methods to protect fish stocks and maintain a healthy industry.

 

Over the past two years our campaign has been raising awareness of this issue among the public, in restaurants, across the fishing industry and in the government. As a result of extensive stakeholder dialogue a new code of conduct for sports fishing has been formulated.  Launched this summer, over 3,000 sports fishermen have already voluntarily signed it. Pledging not to catch endangered fish, or other species, below the minimum catch size; to release any endangered species they catch back into the sea; to respect a daily catch limit and not to fish near underwater caves.

 

Endangered species, such as grouper and the slipper lobster, have been taken off some restaurant menus as SPNI has educated owners and chefs about the environmental impact of serving these these dishes. Together with the Parks and Nature Authority, SPNI has jointly published and distributed, through dedicated volunteers, educational material about protected species for business owners.

 

The most recent development in the campaign, was a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture to impose greater restrictions on the industry in 2015. The letter sent to Israeli fishers in December 2014 addressed the number of fishing permits that will be issued this year, was included with information about renewing fishing licenses. SPNI supports the move, and will continue to campaign to protect Israel's fisheries.