Minister of Agriculture Shalom Simchon has announced a ban on all fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) for two years. The ban also extends to the part of the Jordan River that empties into the Sea of Galilee, and to all the other rivers that empty into the famous lake.

The authority to ban fishing is within the Minister of Agriculture's authority according to the official Fishing Order, and the ban is set to take effect on March 1, 2010, extending until February 28, 2012. Minister Simchon has asked the Finance Ministry to allot NIS 15 million for enforcing the ban and compensating the fishermen who will be hurt by it.

Simchon explained that according to Agriculture Ministry statistics, the quantity of fish in the Sea of Galilee has plummeted in the past decade, and especially in the last two years, by tens of percentage points annually. It has now reached  a critical level, he said, and these statistics mean that the sea may be facing an ecological disaster in which all its fish would die out.

Simchon added that the ban on fishing is necessary, because it is both in the public's interest and that of the fishermen that the Sea of Galilee be kept from turning into a fishless sea. However, the Ministry of Agriculture said that it realized that the fishermen would be bound to protest the move.

In order to minimize the damage to fishermen, a joint team of professionals from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environmental Protection has formulated a plan for supporting fishermen whose sole livelihood is from fishing in the Sea of Galilee. The program would cost NIS 15 million and would include retirement compensation for one-third of the fishermen and monthly payments to the others. In addition, the budget would pay for greater enforcement activity, and a project for artificially populating the lake with fish.  

Simchon intends to bring the proposal before the Cabinet in the course of February.