Conflict in the Middle East has been making devastating headlines for several decades. External bodies have been employing a multiplicity of solutions to direct the religious narrative of this region into one of peace and prosperity, for future generations. Needless to say, the area is starved for some exemplary collaboration between Arab and Israeli partners. With strategic groundwork, the protection of natural-resources and common ecosystem services could comprise the ultimate motivator to engage in cross-cultural action. Perhaps the most pressing issue on the agenda of environmentalists throughout the world is the global loss of biodiversity and subsequent collapse of food webs; an emphasis on commercially important species, such as the cosmopolitan Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, could not only have a worldwide impact across vast spatio-temporal scales, but also serve as an applicable model to other nations in the world.
In Israel, several programmes are now being implemented to provide for sustainability in ocean management. However, the mere protection of natural resources may contradict socially valuable practices, promoting environmental conservation but not sustainability per se. For example, government restrictions on bottom trawling have triggered a vigorous debate on the livelihood of minority groups such as local fishery communities from the Israeli-Arab sector; despite financial compensation by the government, it is reasonable to assume a negative impact of such action on the prosperity of fishers who are facing unemployment. Ironically, it is the knowledge and technical expertise of these very individuals that could serve to underpin a successful shift in conservation practices.
The Immediate Solution
Capture-mark-release is a scientific method for long-term ecological monitoring of highly migratory species. Caught animals are fixed with satellite archival tags (aka SPOT tags) providing for the establishment of distribution patterns and environmental data. Additionally, tissue samples and physiological measurements that are taken during capture allow for biological research at both the individual and population levels. Such procedures are conducted according to species-specific protocols that meet ethical and veterinary standards. It relies upon the knowledge and experience of professional fishers to ensure maximum rates of survival.
The launching of a tagging programme for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in Israel could provide an alternative source of income for socially displaced fishers; an emphasis on the participation of Arab-Israeli individuals would foster cross-sectoral collaboration as a regional source of inspiration. Moreover, it would promote pure conservation, as the ecological importance of apex predators is through their function as sentinels of ocean health, through top-down regulation of environmental perturbations. In the past sixty years, most pelagic observed species stocks have been suffering a drastic decline due to over-fishing, amongst other pressures, but the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna remains the most coveted commercial fish in the ocean.
In order to encourage the relief of fishing pressure all year round, and not only during the Bluefin migration, it is important to provide for more sustainable solutions that can be independently pursued by the target beneficiaries. For example, trained fishers could learn how to tag other by-catch species that, despite their equally important ecological role as apex predators, are of lesser economic value. In turn, this could provide for blue growth through spontaneous emergence of new businesses in the Israeli-Arab sector. For example, a whole industry of eco-tourism could develop, fostering higher livability than the initial status-quo. Another example would be to provide a fishing platform for amateur fishers.
The Marine Top Predator division of the Morris Kahn Marine Research Centre is now halfway through the second year of its shark-tagging programme. Having already recruited and trained a team of volunteers from all walks of life, we are enthusiastic to establish a new platform through which our citizen scientists could be rewarded for their efforts. We aspire to scale up in our impact and while saving the most critically endangered species in our oceans, reach out to socially displaced communities and spread inspiration for cross-sectoral collaboration, by bridging between peace, prosperity, and planet.