Due to Oil Spill, Israel Bans Seafood From its Mediterranean Coast

Israeli soldiers joining in the cleanup effort (Israel Nature and Parks Authority / Etty Nafrin)

By The Maritime Executive 02-26-2021 05:33:00

Israel has banned the sale of all domestic Mediterranean-sourced seafood in response to the severe petroleum spill that has affected its western coastline over the past week. The prohibition covers the distribution or marketing of any Mediterranean seafood from waters off Israel, effective immediately. 

“While so far no evidence has shown any danger arising from fish consumption, out of an abundance of caution some samples have been sent to the Agriculture Ministry’s lab for analysis, to rule out any presence of toxic particles," the health ministry told The Media Line.

According to the Associated Press, some fishermen have ignored the ban and continued to bring in their catch, hoping to sustain a source of income that has already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

About 1,200 tons of oily wastes have been removed from the coastline so far, according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. 13 centers for volunteer cleanup coordination have been set up at affected areas; due to health risks of the pollutants, the authority has asked the public not to attempt independent cleanup efforts without prior instruction and training. Israel's military has also joined in the cleanup effort, dispatching thousands of soldiers to assist. 

The heaviest concentrations of pollution are in the north, from the town of Netanya up to Haifa and the border with Lebanon. Small quantities have been reported on Lebanese shores as well.

Israeli responders say that the most difficult areas to address are on rocks and cliffs, as these contaminated surfaces cannot simply be filtered or removed (like sand or gravel). "According to field assessments it is evident that these complex and strenuous operations will be required to continue over a long period of time," the parks authority said. 

Israel's government-run Fund for the Prevention of Marine Pollution is supporting the cleanup with $14 million in funding. 

The pollution is believed to have come from a ship. IMO - with the assistance of EMSA - has identified 10 suspect vessels which were in the area at the time of the spill. Israeli media have named one vessel in particular - a Greek tanker - but its operator has vehemently denied any connection to the oil release, noting that the vessel was in ballast at the time in question. The tanker is due to arrive in Piraeus tomorrow, where it will be inspected.