Israel’s Health Ministry on Wednesday moved to ban the distribution of seafood from the Mediterranean Sea after a massive oil spill contaminated most of Israel’s coastline.
The decision went into immediate effect and will cover fish and other marine life sold for consumption, according to a ministry statement.
The step was taken “in light of the environmental pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, which has been expressed, among other ways, in the amounts of tar found on the Mediterranean beaches in recent days,” a statement from the Health Ministry said.
The move is more of a precautionary measure as the Agricultural Ministry is still assessing whether the spill poses a danger to consumers.
The oil spill dubbed “one of the most serious ecological disasters” in the country’s history by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority has impacted 160 km of the country’s 185km coastline. The government also told Israelis to stay away from the beaches all along the Mediterranean coast.
Hundreds of sea turtles, crabs, fish, whales, and seagulls are thought to have perished in the spill. The government is still looking for the culprit that caused the disaster.
Meanwhile, the cleanup operation along the coastline has been underway since Tuesday. The government has approved NIS 45 million ($13.8 million) for the task, the cash for which will come from the state’s Fund for the Prevention of Marine Pollution.
The collection and disposal operation is being carried out by the ministry-run Environmental Services Company, which specializes in hazardous waste removal.
Despite the orders, some fishermen still went to the sea on Thursday to bring in their catch.
Sami Ali, a representative for the village’s fishermen, insisted it was safe to keep on fishing.
“The tar floats on the sea, on the water, it doesn’t penetrate deep. It does damage to the reefs, maybe also seaweed, the beach, and many facilities. Also, it damaged our equipment,” he said. “But the fish do not eat things that are not natural.”
“They’re forcing us into an economical disaster, on top of the environmental one,” Sami Ali of Israel’s Fishermen’s Union told The Media Line. “We still haven’t made it through the coronavirus crisis, because the government hasn’t given us any support, and now we’re facing a new lethal measure.”