Posts on farmed fish

מקבץ פוסטים שפורסמו במקור ב-Animal Rights in Israel (דף פייסבוק, כיום For Anonymous Animals, בבעלות עמותת אנונימוס).


Shark bites man: who is the real victim?

Israeli media tell the story of a diver attacked by a 2 meter long shark and brought to the hospital suffering from a severely wounded arm. The "Horror in the Sea" headlines divert attention from the real horror – the fish farm – where millions of animals are crowded into the smallest space possible, swimming in their own waste.

The diver was attacked while trying to pull the shark out of a gilt-head bream cage in the Mediterranean, about 10 km away from the city of Ashdod's coastline. Divers feed the fish and take them to be killed when they reach a certain size. Divers told reporters that dozens and even hundreds of sharks are seen regularly around the cages: "they arrive because of the fish and usually feed on dead fish. On rare occasions they manage to enter our cages and then we have to take them out, so they would not eat the fish." The cage where the bite occured was almost empty already, due to shark penetration.

The "shark problem" in the Ashdod area is a rare trigger for media interest in sea cages. We may also hear about them when many of the captives escape. In late December 2009, 80 tons of gilt-head breams escaped, and in mid January 2013, 80-100 tons escaped again, in both cases thanks to storms. The condition of the breams after the last escape was so poor that fishermen captured them by hand.

The Ashdod sea farm is a grim compromise, following the struggle over the sea cages near Eilat, the Red Sea. The Eilat farm started to operate in 1995, and its closure by 2008 due to ecological damage is one of the highlights in the history of the Israeli environmental movement. Yet, since the struggle was indifferent to the plight of the fish themselves, the government soon decided to construct sea cages in the Mediterranean, possibly to be closed later on in favor of fish ponds on land, north to Eilat. Eleven systems were approved, each of them containing around a million fish, over 8 square kilometers.

None of the location changes help any fish. Meanwhile, as the case of the Ashdod shark bite reminds us, the sea and its inhabitants around the farm endure grave ecological damage.


Stocking fish into the Sea of Galilee: what does it mean for the fish?

The Israeli Fishery and Aquaculture department of the Ministry of Agriculture is completing the transfer of one million young mango tilapias (St. Peter's fish) from artificial breeding facilities into the Sea of Galilee. 300,000 silver carps went through a similar treatment recently, in addition to 830,000 thin-lipped grey mullets and 100,000 flathead mullets, some months earlier.

Stocking the Sea of Galilee is intended to help cleaning the water and allow "harvesting" the grown fish. Yet, fishing made Israel's major fresh water lake into an ecological mess. Between 1998 to 2008 the total weight of fish caught dropped by about 90%. The numbers increased since then, although they remain far lower than earlier numbers. In 2010, the government finally approved a 2-year moratorium on fishing, but it never came into force. The actual fishing ban is restricted to a short breeding season at the main fish breeding region.

Turning a 170-square-kilometer lake into an artificial fish pond does not work well. About a decade ago, the Ministry of Agriculture used to pour into the lake 6 million young fish a year, but this intensive stocking attempt did not result in more mature fish, and hence the scale of this practice has been largely reduced.

Every documentation of fish transfer from breeding ponds into the lake reveals the roughness of the practice. Hundreds of young fish are pressed onto one another and taken out of the water in nets, or they are hurled through pipes. Sometimes it gets much worse: in 2008, 100,000 flathead mullets died because they were left for four days in crowded, closed tanks. This mass death happened because one manager did not provide a Saturday work permit.

New diseases are another acute problem. A news report from March this year claims that an experimental station of the Fish Breeders Association turned out to be a breeding ground for a new virus, which destroys the eyes of mango tilapias, and kills them later. The new virus have reached the Sea of Galilee, and it kills 40% of the tilapias before maturity. Another disease developed in State-owned breeding ponds for flathead mullets. Sanitation in these ponds was so poor, that when the mullets were transferred to the lake they were infected with fungi, and many of them die as a result.

All this is but a part of the disasters that fish face in the Sea of Galilee, without even mentioning the fishing itself.