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While humans cultivate the other components of their diet, whether plants or animals, most fish and other edible maritime creatures are hunted in their natural environment. That’s why seafood is usually called “the last undomesticated food.” But probably not for long. According to a report published in 2011 by the International Program on the State of the Ocean, in the past 20 years the worldwide demand for fish has doubled, while their supply in nature has been cut in half.

To understand where this trend is leading, we must begin at the first stop: the wholesale market for sea fish in Israel, known as Delal ?(an Arabic word meaning public auction?). There are two such markets in Israel ? in Jaffa and at the Kishon Port in Haifa. The merchandise there is unloaded from trucks that have just arrived, full of fish that were loaded onto them from boats returning from a night of fishing. 

Every morning at 5:30 the two markets fill up. Several dozen wholesale merchants gather around three stalls at each market and purchase fish at a public auction. The sales manager at each stall proudly presents the crates, announces the type of fish they contain and their weight, and collects a large number of bids. The highest is written on a piece of paper and set aside until the auction is over, when the winning bidder will purchase the crate’s contents. 

While the fish merchants seem energetic and full of vitality, the fish are somewhat less so. The quantity, variety and size of Israeli salt water fish have been shrinking by the year. According to figures collected by the fisheries department of the Agriculture Ministry, in the past decade there has been a 40 percent decline in the local quantity of fish. Other figures, published in 2010 by the state comptroller in a comprehensive report on the fishing industry in Israel, indicate a decline of 80 percent. The two fish in the worst situation are grouper ?(lokus?) and cod, with a decline of 75 percent since the early 1990s.

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