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In an unprecedented sentence, a Beit She'an Magistrate's Court sentenced Eran Asayag, a fisherman from Tiberias, to 10 months imprisonment for various fishery violations in Lake Kinneret including the use of poison as a means of fishing.

Asayag was also convicted of fishery violations including lacking a fishing license.

Judge Iryah Heuman Mordechai also sentenced Asayag to a 10-month suspended prison sentence and a NIS 40,000 fine, an NIS 80,000 guarantee that he would avoid repeating any of the violations for which he was convicted for three years, and confiscated his equipment, including a boat.

The maximum prison sentence for using poison to fish is only three months, but the maximum punishment for polluting a water source can be as high as three years.

Attorney Jeryes Ghantous prosecuted the case on behalf of the Agriculture Ministry.

"This case is groundbreaking in the war against the phenomenon of poisoning," he said. "This was a test case, in view of the fact that it is very difficult to catch the perpetrators 'in the act.' The circumstantial evidence we presented satisfied the court. We will continue fighting this terrible phenomenon that damages public health and causes serious damage to the fishing in the Kinneret. It is a heavy punishment standard and we are hoping that this will deter the occurrence of similar actions in the future."

The case involving Asayag occurred two and a half years ago, near the Tiberias coastline. After he laid out his nets, Asayag spread poison in order to expedite the process. That night he instructed two of his employees to collect the nets, in which some 300 kilograms of fish were caught.

According to Agriculture Ministry inspectors who arrived at the scene, there was clear evidence of mass poisoning as hundreds of dead fish had surfaced or were on shore dying. The two employees of Asayag were detained for questioning, but when he arrived at the scene he threatened the inspectors and tried to prevent them from confiscating the fish.

Asayag then ordered one of his workers to pour gasoline on the fish, and then fled with the boat and one of his employees, dumping the nets and the poisoned fish into the lake.

In his defense Asayag said that he had laid the nets but had not poured poison.

Circumstantial evidence, Asayag's behavior, and lab results suggested otherwise, and forensic evidence revealed the presence of poison on his boat, all of which were sufficient for the court.