Treasury plan would cancel quotas on imported fish, saying that move will lower fish prices.
Zafrir Rinat Jul 25, 2016

Fish breeders and conservationists are fighting a treasury plan to cancel quotas on imported fish. While the treasury argues that the step will lower the price of fish, opponents say it will deal a death blow to the local industry and erase fish ponds from the Israeli landscape.

The Fish Breeders Association in Israel is fighting the plan, claiming that the growers will be unable to compete economically with cheap imports and the industry will cease to exist.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel also urged the finance minister not to cancel the quotas until there is a promise of assistance that will enable the continuation of the fish ponds. The nature society believes that the ponds play a vital role in the survival of a rich variety of water fowl and wildlife and are also an important feature of the landscape.

On Tuesday the breeders will demonstrate near the fish ponds of Kibbutz Maoz Haim in the Beit She’an Valley, joined by nature conservationists and bird watchers.

Israel has hundreds of fish ponds spanning an area of 27,000 dunams, mainly in the Beit She’an Valley, Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael on the coast and the Hula Valley. In the past the area was twice the size, but many ponds were forced to close due to financial difficulties.

The fish ponds help to maintain a population of 17 types of water fowl in danger of extinction worldwide, which migrate to Israel annually, according to a study published by the Nekudat Chen environmental foundation. The ponds also protect storks, pelicans and other wildlife. Israel’s situation is unique because in most countries with fish ponds there are also many natural water sources.

The water from the fish ponds that is channeled to rivers after use causes some damage to the rivers. Fish breeders are often in conflict with water fowl that feed on fish. Nevertheless the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel notes that the ponds provide water, food and refuge for various birds and animals. With the disappearance of natural water sources due to human activity, the fish ponds play an important ecological role.

“Closing the fishing industry will also cause the disappearance of the lovely view of fish ponds from the valleys and the coastal plain and will leave behind an arid landscape in the northern valleys,” said nature society. “The ponds are an important landscape resource with tremendous potential for recreational activities.”

The Finance Ministry responded that “The ministry sees great importance in the continued existence and strengthening of Israel’s fish breeding industry. Therefore the ministry intends to offer support both through investments and by offering a safety net for local breeders.”
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