Israel temporarily bans consuming Mediterranean seafood after oil spill

Published on
March 4, 2021

Israel has temporarily banned consumption of seafood from the Mediterranean Sea following an oil spill which yielded volumes of tar along the country’s beaches, and may have contaminated fish and other marine life.

Ministry of Health officials were quoted saying the precaution would be in place until samples from the affected marine life are collated and analyzed by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Times of Israel reported.

The Mediterranean Sea, which is one of the leading fish production areas in Israel, accounts for nearly 6 percent of the country’s capture fish, with the inland fisheries producing nearly 2 percent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Other fishing areas in the country include the Red Sea and Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret).

The Ministry of Environmental Protection warned the tar and debris found on Israel's beaches continue to pose a challenge since the oil spill, whose origin is yet to be confirmed, happened in late February.

“The authority is trying to find effective mechanical and technological measures to grapple with the small lumps of tar, and more advanced measures to tackle the tar on rocky surfaces,” it said

The ministry estimated 1,200 tons of tar-contaminated material has been washed ashore onto 160 kilometers of the Mediterranean coastline, including tar, sand, and solid waste such as plastic, wood, algae, and shells.

Meanwhile, the government has approved the withdrawal of NIS 45 million (USD 13.7 million EUR 11.3 million) from the state’s Fund for Prevention of Marine Pollution to finance the clean-up operation spearheaded by volunteers, local authorities, soldiers, and the general public.

The money, the Environment Ministry said, is “for the removal of tar, its transfer to storage in Neot Hovav, the sorting of soil and waste, sampling and analysis of materials.”

Separately, Greenpeace International had warned on 26 February that the Mediterranean oil spill had reached southern Lebanon.

“Based on the assessment results, the authorities should provide safety guidance to the Lebanese people, especially with regards to fishing and swimming activities,” the NGO said.

The organized urged the Lebanese authorities to take immediate action “to assess the severity of this spill via an urgent survey and monitoring program and to put in place a plan to minimize the impacts on the environment and public health.”  

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace

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