For First Time in 50-plus Years, Yarkon Bream Returning to the River That Is Its Namesake

The species of fish, which is indigenous only to Israel, has been spotted along 23 kilometers of the Yarkon River’s 27-kilometer length.

Searching for the Yarkon bream.
Yarkon River Authority

For the first time in more than 50 years, a survey of the Yarkon River has revealed the presence of a fish indigenous only to Israel, the Yarkon bream, in the stretch in Ganei Yehoshua park in the heart of Tel Aviv. The find is an important sign of the success of efforts to rehabilitate the river, which runs from east of the city to Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean coast.

In fact, there is now evidence that the fish, which is also known by its Latin name, Acanthobrama telavivensis, or Yarkon bleak, is present along 23 kilometers of the river’s 27-kilometer length. In the westernmost stretch of four kilometers until it enters the sea, around the Tel Aviv Port, the salinity of the water, from the seepage of saltwater coming in from the Mediterranean, makes that portion of the Yarkon inhospitable to freshwater species and is not an indication of pollution.

The river survey, which has been undertaken by the Yarkon River Authority, has not yet been completed, but the findings so far have been particularly surprising to the authority’s staff because there had recently been a serious pollution incident in the eastern stretch of the river, degrading the quality of the water.

The Yarkon bream is only found in the Yarkon and in several other streams in the country, but nowhere else in the world. The fish, which is a member of the carp family, is small and silver-gray in color and lives near the river bottom.

For decades, during which the river was polluted and bereft of natural spring water, it was only found in the Yarkon’s easternmost stretches, which were clean and still fed by natural springs. Sixty years ago, the Yarkon bream was common to most of the streams along the country’s coast, but with a drop in the levels of spring water coupled with a rise in pollution, populations dwindled. And following a drought in 1999, its last habitats were damaged and the fish almost became extinct.

Since the Yarkon bream is particularly sensitive to pollution, it is a good barometer of the improvement in the quality of the water in the Yarkon – a local version of sorts of a canary in a coal mine – and its return is a good sign.