Who will be the rising star of the next decade?
The end of the year, and in fact the end of the decade, is a time to reflect on the recent past of the sea. I think we look at the sea today much as we have always looked at it. The sea has become a central part of our lives and not just a distant horizon of which we can only feel the edges. Walking along the beach, the water laps over our toes. Suddenly we realize that there is something much greater out there. We have neglected it for many years, but suddenly we discover treasures that cannot be denied, natural gas fields. On the one hand, they threaten us and our health. On the other hand, they have awakened our awareness of the environment around us. Grassroot aquatic environmental organizations have sprung up: Sea Defenders, Divers for the Mediterranean, Gulf Rangers, Mediterranean People, and other groups of people who care. The eyes of the sea. No longer a neglected area far from our hearts. A beautiful Saturday at sea, and everyone is here: swimmers, divers, snorkelers, surfers, yachts, SUPs, and fishers. We discovered a wonderful new world. Ten years ago, the sea was disconnected, except for fishers and sailors who knew the depths of the sea, no one had any idea what was happening out there. It was hard to imagine updated fishing regulations, plans for large nature reserves, protected species banned from fishing, and a dedicated marine department that monitors it all.
There is no doubt that the marine space has gotten more colorful, and not just because of the invasive species from the Red Sea that have become an integral part of the scenery, for example the lionfish which has recently become established here. Even when we look at a color map, it is no longer dominated by the single blue color we are accustomed to. The map is full of colorful markings; suddenly everyone wants a part, even the smallest part, of this Big Blue.
We draw lines on the map and hope for the best. And where do fish come into this complex picture? They are present everywhere; under a gas pipeline, you can find a chubby grouper fish hiding; around each construction spot in the sea, and even around one cinder block, you can find a school of curious minnows. There is no doubt that the fish benefit greatly from the marine nature reserves, where they are protected from fishing and can swim about freely, without fear, and happily get fat. But in the end, we also find them around the breakwaters on the Metzitzim Beach in Tel Aviv or in Bat Galim in Haifa. A well planned, managed, and monitored fishing department increases the chances of coming across, over the coming years, large schools of fish or species we thought only existed in the nostalgic stories of fishers.
The future looks promising. Today we and the fish enjoy the same habitat. They have known it for millions of years and we are discovering it gradually over time. But the day will come where working with fishers won’t be enough, and even the contributions of our amazing nature reserves will not be sufficient. We are entering a decade full of new threats to which it is becoming progressively harder to relate. Threats of climate change that is worsening, pollution whose extent is hard to predict. We need to consider our next best step. The health of fish reflects our own health; we need to think about their situation and all that entails. In other words, we need to consider the quality of the water. She may not be photogenic, and it’s difficult to spin tales of longing about her, but she envelops us every time we go into the sea, and every time we breathe in the sea air on the beach. She is invisible and ubiquitous. After we have dealt with so many other practical questions, one remains open: how do we maintain the quality of the water? And how do we, over the next decade, shine the spotlight on her, without forgetting all the rest? Of course, no one said it was going to be easy.
Translated by Daphna Shapiro Goldberg
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