Israel to expand marine ecosystem conservation
'The ocean seems to be, you know, endless, right? But this is actually not the truth'
Climate change, invasive species, and human activity are considerable threats to the eastern Mediterranean, and Israel is now taking significant steps toward its goals of protecting the sea.
Last year, the Jewish state agreed to the 30 by 30 initiative, promising to conserve 30 percent of its land and waters by 2030.
“The ecological impact - even in the smaller reserves - we see that from the moment that we protect a place and prevent destructive activity, from fishing to the entry of infrastructure… we see that the main beneficiary is nature," Eyal Miller, a Nature and Parks Authority marine ranger, told i24NEWS.
Over the years, Israelis have become increasingly aware that marine resources are not infinite.
Shortly after a 175-square-mile protected area was designated off the coast of Tel Aviv, the Jewish state began moving forward with a plan to protect the 118-mile coastline.
"The ocean seems to be, you know, endless, right?” Ruthy Yahel, a Nature and Parks Authority marine biologist, said. “As much as we take, as much as we use, as much as we exploit the species, it will be endless. But this is actually not the truth."
"The truth is that we overfished our oceans and overfished our sea, including the Mediterranean Sea, including the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and if we don't allocate a big chunk of areas in order to protect it, we will lose the entire wonderful ecosystem of the sea," Yahel continued.
"So we need to protect it, not only here but everywhere."
In recent years, Israel has put marine conservation on the agenda, and the seas have bounced back as a result, with many vital species beginning to thrive again. Israel has increased the protected coastal waters from 0.3 percent to around 4 percent, and an additional 4.5 percent is planned.
However, some feel Israel's policies regarding the environment need to be more consistent.
"It's forbidden for fisherman to enter marine reserves, it's forbidden to fish, but they're allowed to lay infrastructure for gas rigs and for oil ships and polluters can enter the marine reserves,” said Sami Ali, spokesman for the Israel Fisherman's Union.
“There's an inherent contradiction here.”