Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee in Israel have been hauling in nets brimming with fish since Biblical times—the disciple Peter filled his nets to the point of breaking after Jesus showed him where to cast. But now, the Israeli government says overfishing has put an end to the bounty, and a two-year ban on fishing is the only answer (short of another miracle, one assumes).
Israel’s cabinet approved the ban last month in hopes that depleted fish stocks in the freshwater lake where Jesus walked on water will bounce back. As recently as 2005, the BBC reports, nearly 300 tonnes of St. Peter’s fish—a species of tilapia popular with tourists—were caught every year. Last year, only eight tonnes were pulled in. The decline, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, is a result of a decade of unregulated fishing and the use of illegal fine-mesh nets that catch fish before they can reproduce. “We are just before a catastrophe,” said Chaim Anjioni, director of fisheries. “We need to stop fishing to give the small fish a chance to grow.”
The reaction to the ban among roughly 200 licensed fishermen has been mixed. Some see the moratorium as regrettable but necessary, while others blame the drop in stocks on an increased cormorant population or low water levels. Scientists, however, say overfishing is clearly the leading factor; up to 80 per cent of fish caught in recent years were under legal size limits, according to one study.
Speaking in his cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured those put out of work by the ban that financial support will be available: “We will support the fishermen and make sure the lake is restocked with fish.” He also reminisced over days spent fishing on the Sea of Galilee as a boy: “The fish were excellent,” he said.