Israeli Fishing Industry Finally Changes Course

Illegal fishing of protected Guitar Fish.Photo Roy Gvili

After decades of uncontrolled fishing in the Mediterranean, the Knesset Economics Committee chaired by MK Eitan Cabel approved regulations for the protection of Israel’s marine environment in September.

This dramatic and unprecedented step aims to safeguard some 2 million dunams (roughly 495,000 acres) of Israeli sea, approximately a third of the country’s maritime territory, in order to prevent the continued devastation of our precious marine ecosystem.

The regulations will:

  • Ban trawl fishing north of the Dor Habonim Nature Reserve (north of Caesarea) during the “recruitment season,” the three-month period every year when young fish join already existing adult schools;
  • Impose a 60-90 day breeding season moratorium on all fishing activity;
  • Enact a complete ban – with no exceptions – on fishing while using scuba diving tanks;
  • Prohibit the use of a purse seine, a large wall of netting deployed around an entire area or school of fish, when fishing less than 500 meters from the shoreline;
  • Double the size of trammel net meshing, from 14 millimeters to 30 millimeters;
  • Increasing the permissible size of catch for White Grouper and Meager to no less than 40 centimeters;
  • Establish a port fishing catch quota (bag limit) of 5 kg or 2 large fish per day.

 Israeli coast. Photo Hof Lugassy

Enforcing these regulations will not only enable the recovery of Israel’s fishing industry but also drastically reduce the number of protected sea creatures that are fished or injured each year.  To date, more than 100,000 endangered marine animals, including sharks and rays, are illegally fished in Israel.  Additionally, an average of four dolphins and 3,000 sea turtles are harmed annually as a result of fishing activity. 


As we reported back in December 2015, SPNI is leading the nation-wide “Fish Responsibly” campaign to protect the marine environment and allow the fish population to regenerate.  These latest supportive measures by the Knesset Economics Committee will allow the fishing reform, championed by SPNI together with scientists and academics, to really take root.


The committee's decision will take effect after the completion of a compensation agreement that will shut down the northern trawlers. This arrangement was made possible thanks to the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Environment Protection and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, all of whom joined forces and allocated significant resources to see it through.  Fishermen have been granted a transition period of three years to help them adapt to this change.


SPNI is already developing the next phase of the “Fish Responsibly” campaign, including the promotion of a budget allocation towards shutting down trawlers on the central and southern coasts, firm enforcement of the new fishing regulations, and transfer of the supervision responsibilities to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.