fishing - Eliyahu Hershkowitz - 22122011
Anglers fishing in the Mediterranean near Ashdod. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkowitz
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The fisheries department in the Agriculture Ministry recently took the unusual step of publishing a call for scientists to submit proposals for research to help reverse the decline in fish catches.

However, experts in the field say the ministry is not doing enough itself to improve the situation.

According to fishery department figures, catches have declined by 40 percent over the past decade.

One reason for the decline, which has mainly affected the Mediterranean, is because fish are being caught before they have reached maturity, Prof. Menachem Goren of Tel Aviv University, said.

He said fishermen are now having trouble finding the large fish for which there is a demand in restaurants, including white grouper, amber jack, tuna and drum fish.

The large fishing nets in use also damage the sea bed, on which fish depend. "In the best case the damage they cause only takes a few years to repair," Prof. Bella Galil, of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, said.

Goren and Galil say a lack of monitoring makes it difficult to implement decisions, such as outlawing nets that do not allow smaller fish to escape.

They also say the authorities should impose limitations that would allow fish to reproduce and replenish their numbers.

The Agriculture Ministry said in response that it will be implementing a new policy next year to limit the number of fishing licenses and to impose restrictions on methods, areas and seasons for fishing.