Master Plan for Marine Reserves in the Deep Sea – Exclusive Economic Zone (Photo: The Blue Half)
What would you give to turn back time and avoid making a mistake? The solution to saving the deep
sea How many of us didn't have the fantasy, at least once in a lifetime, of getting some kind of time machine? One that will allow us to skip to the past and correct something we have said or done, thus preventing a destructive chain reaction for ourselves or those around us.
Most of us think about it and move on, after all, it's not possible, and such a time machine is not available on Amazon or Alibaba.
In the world of nature conservation, such a time machine could have saved enormous efforts of restoration. From the mistake of drying
up Lake Hula in the 50s, which led to severe pollution of the Sea of Galilee and the destruction of one of the most important natural sites in the Middle East, through the treatment of Israel's rivers as sewage pipes and the beach as a construction site, which harmed the most available natural and recreational resource to the country's residents. It is even possible to go with the time machine, to the island of Mauritius in the 17th century, and prevent the extinction of the Dodo bird.
The good news is that such a time machine is actually in our hands, and it allows us today to act to save the need to use it in the future.
The deep sea covers about 21,000 square kilometers and is similar in scope to the land area of the country (Photo: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Oz Rittner)
Must use our time machine
Israel's deep sea, with a depth of more than 200 meters, stretches over 21,000 square kilometers and is similar in scope to the country's land area. Despite some human activity in it, mainly fishing, gas drilling, and shipping, it is an almost untouched space. There are old corals, 1,500 years old, life forms that produce energy from gas pulsing from the seafloor, sponge carpets, whales, shark breeding sites and more. Many of the creatures living in the deep sea communicate with each other, using light that they produce on their own, just like fireflies. It is also a huge carbon reservoir, which traps greenhouse gases in their neutralized form, which is not harmful to the climate.
If we don't use our time machine today and manage all this beauty wisely, it will be too late. Many development projects are eyeing Israel's deep sea, from the Ministry of Energy's intention to expand gas exploration for export purposes – a strange decision in itself in an era of global effort to combat climate change, through projects for the production of renewable energies, aquaculture, expansion of fishing, laying communications and electricity cables, and more. Therefore, the State of Israel is currently at a unique point in time, in which it can use the time machine and prevent the destruction in advance with intelligent planning.
Israel is a signatory to a series of international commitments to promote 30% of the marine area as a protected area by 2030 under the Barcelona Convention – the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ocean Alliance. A network of marine reserves is actually a time capsule in which nature is preserved without interference of fishing, infrastructure, and pollution. Such a move preserves nature in the most important places and enables the promotion of educated development at less sensitive sites. All this, in a planning process that precedes the wave of development and prevents unnecessary destruction that years of rehabilitation will not be able to reverse.
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Israel's deep sea is being watched by many development projects. Deep sea depth sharks in Palmachim (Photo: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, research team led by the University of Haifa)
Marine reserves as a haven for marine life
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel recently completed the planning of a network of deep-sea marine reserves in Israel's exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea. This design, carried out in collaboration with the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa, the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University and other bodies, characterized for the first time more than 20 different ecological units in the deep sea floor and the water column above it. These units comprise about 6% of the area that constitute unique habitats of the bottom and include deep coral gardens, unique societies based on cold gas vents and sponge carpets. In addition, areas rich in mixers in the water column were characterized - areas where currents rise from the depth and enrich the water with nutrients. The continental slope, the area where the shallow sea plunges into the deep sea, has been identified as a particularly important area for conservation.
The plan proposes promoting 10 large marine nature reserves in the deep sea. This network of reserves preserves most of the unique habitats and a representative share of the other ecological units. The network was designed so that good connectivity would be maintained between the reserves and that marine animals would be allowed to pass. In addition, the reserves allow protection of areas that are expected to be refuges during climate change, to which some animals will migrate in response to warming water at shallower depths.
The master plan for deep sea reserves is a powerful time machine, which allows the State of Israel to plan correctly, before development sets rivets on the ground. In doing so, we eliminate the need to use a real time machine, if there is one, in 30 years.
We call on the Government of Israel to adopt the master plan: to the Minister of Justice, to promote legislation that will enable the planning of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the promotion of the reserves; to the Minister of Energy to freeze gas exploration in sensitive areas and adapt the deployment of infrastructure to the reserve plan; For the Planning Authority, to integrate the reserve plan into the framework of comprehensive planning for the Exclusive Economic Zone. Significant resources should be allocated to surveys in areas designated for reserves in order to collect up-to-date information that will enable the declaration of reserves. For example, by allocating 10% of the gas profits fund (the Citizens of Israel Fund) for this purpose. And of course, resources should be allocated to the Nature and Parks Authority, to increase the required resources, for the purpose of supervising and managing distant marine reserves.
This is the right time, to use the time machine at our disposal – environmental planning and management, which precedes the destruction and networks the deep sea, in 30% marine reserves.
The master plan for deep sea reserves will be launched as part of the Deep Sea Conference, which will be held today (Thursday) at the University of Haifa, led by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the University of Haifa, IOL and other bodies.
Read more about themaster plan
The new plan proposes promoting 10 large marine nature reserves in the deep sea (Photo: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, research team led by the University of Haifa)
Alon Rothschild, Director of 'The Blue Half', the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel's Sea Project
- Columns and sections
- Mediterranean Sea
- Nature reserves