Rare Dead Sea Fish Species Saved From Being Left High and Dry

The Dead Sea toothcarp, a rare species of fish found nowhere else in the world, is in trouble.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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One of the pools at Enot Tsukim.
One of the pools at Enot Tsukim. Credit: Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The precipitous decline in the level of the Dead Sea in recent years is threatening the survival of the Dead Sea toothcarp, a rare species of fish found nowhere else in the world.

The Dead Sea toothcarp depends on pools and springs along the Dead Sea cliffs, which are drying up as a result of the lake receding. Concern over the survival of this and other species has led the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to create artificial pools for the fish, and initial efforts look promising according to a report in the upcoming issue of the Hebrew-language journal Ecology and Environment.

According to the article, written by INPA experts involved in the project, the greatest concentration of rare fish along the Dead Sea is in the Ein Feshkha (Enot Tsukim) Nature Reserve. The general quantity of spring water reaching the reserve has not changed, but the way it flows has changed completely, because the water is in an area where the Dead Sea has receded and dried up. The flowing water creates channels that undercut the shoreline, causing the springs to emerge in different spots than they once did.

To save the species that live in the springs, three years ago the INPA created three artificial pools, assuming that water will continue flowing to the reserve in the future. The western side of the pools faces other pools and springs in the reserve to allow water to flow naturally into them.

The Dead Sea toothcarp is now thriving in all three pools, having reached them from other parts of the reserve. It feeds on algae and invertebrates, which means the ecosystem is a healthy one, the article’s authors say.

Moreover, 200 fish of a breeding nucleus of tilapia (better known as St. Peter’s fish) established at the Agriculture Ministry’s Volcani agricultural research facility near Rishon Letzion were subsequently released into two of the pools; they now number in the hundreds.

The INPA is now working on a similar project at Tel Saharon in the Jordan Valley.

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