Israeli Gov’t Denies Eye-Popping Disease that Kills Sacred Sea of Galilee Fish

conservation, wildlife conservation, israel, water authority, galilee Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture denies that a crazy eye-popping disease is killing a substantial population of fish in the Sea of Galilee.

A bizarre disease is killing off a host of fish in the Sea of Galilee, including the St. Peter’s fish considered sacred because of its relevance to the biblical bread and fishes story. After a fish contract the disease, one of its eyes pops out, leaving behind a gorged-out hollow, and then the other. Soon the fish turns black and begins to starve, and finally red spots appear on its body and it dies. While this is very strange, the most bizarre twist to this story is that the Ministry of Agriculture denies that this has been going on for the past 10 years!

The online business journal Globes reports that fisherman Menachem Lev from Kibbutz Ein Gev in Israel, which serves St. Peter’s fish to thousands of Christian Pilgrims, first discovered this disease ten years ago. At that point, it was only affecting the sacred fish, but has since spread to other species including Jordan River Tilapia, Silver Carp, Carp, and Mullet.

According to the paper, up to 15% of the lake’s fish have contracted the disease, though scientists have yet to determine whether it is caused by a parasite or virus. The laboratory at Nir David has concluded that the disease is not caused by bacteria.

Globes claims that if a parasite is lurking in the Sea of Galilee (otherwise known as Lake Kinneret), the local Rabinnate will most likely ban fishing altogether since it will conflict with Jewish law. This would not bode well for the local fishing industry, which has already lost a full quarter of its business in the last few years.

Mostly, though, both Lev and renowned Kinneret fish expert Moshe Gefen fault the government for failing to manage this body of water correctly. Skeptical that the Ministry of Agriculture will find appropriate solutions soon enough to avert a disastrous impact on human health, Gefen recommends removing as many of the infected fish as possible.

Globes reports:

The Kinneret’s 150 fishermen, along with Kibbutz Ein Gev and Kibbutz Ginossar are preparing to sue the Ministry of Agriculture for damages. They charge that the Fish Division’s negligence and the violations by its director are responsible for the collapse of the fish catch and NIS 10 million in losses. Meanwhile, the first flocks of cormorants are due to arrive at the Kinneret any day.

Naturally the fishermen are concerned about how this disease affects their bottom line, but there are other factors to consider: who is monitoring what is being fed to unsuspecting pilgrims and what is the overall ecological byproduct if thousands of fish are dying?

:: Globes

More on the environment at the Sea of Galilee:

Israel Bars Fishing in the Sea of Galilee

Stay at Villa Tehilah, Galilee Country

“Hope Tree” of Bottles for the Sea of Galilee

image via 2010 in Photos

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