Of 16 bottom trawlers licensed to fish in Israel’s Mediterranean waters, six have been detected violating local fisheries regulations, according to Sea Shepherd Global.
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The eco-activists‘ ship Bob Barker has started patrolling the Palmahim Slide off Israel in recent weeks, with its crew reporting several cases of illegal fishing and passing their photo and video evidence to the authorities for investigation.
Palmahim Slide is a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) in which all fishing has been banned. This September it was designated a “Hope Spot”, critical to the health of the ocean, by oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle’s non-governmental organisation Mission Blue.
Located in deep waters off Tel Aviv, the area is the most remote of Israel’s oceanic conservation zones and known to be a reproductive hotspot for deep-sea sharks. It is also a spawning ground for Mediterranean bluefin tuna, populations of which are estimated to have fallen by as much as 85% through overfishing in recent decades.
Sea Shepherd Global is operating off Israel under its campaign name Operation Living Seas, in an extension to its existing Mediterranean partnerships with the Italian and Greek governments “to build enforcement capacity in the world’s most overfished sea”.
“We’ve seen what’s possible working with authorities in Italy, where 7,600 octopus traps were recently confiscated with tens of thousands of octopuses saved; and in Greece, where three trawlers were just now busted fishing in the largest MPA in the Mediterranean, the National Marine Park of Alonnisos,” said Sea Shepherd Global’s CEO Captain Alex Cornelissen.
Med heatwaves killing corals
In the western Mediterranean, meanwhile, marine heatwaves last summer are reported to have been 5°C hotter than normal, killing off coral forest habitats and seriously affecting sponges, algae and bivalves.
Climate-monitoring service Mercator Ocean International has reported that in some places water temperatures reached 30°C, and according to conservation group Septentrion Environnement up to 90% of red gorgonians lying shallower than 20m off Marseille were reduced to skeletons. Seafans were also badly affected off Spain and Sardinia, depending on their depth.
“Like the seasonal wildfires that intensify under climate change, marine heatwaves are extreme events that now occur more and more in the Mediterranean and across the ocean, becoming more frequent. more intense and more widespread,” says Mercator director-general Pierre Bahurel. “Their consequences, though not as visible as fires, are devastating for the marine environment.”