Israel is a leader in freshwater fish culture, having developed advanced techniques for raising carp, tilapia and mullet. Through multi-species culture high yields have been achieved. In 1972, 37 percent of the pond area (29 farms covering 1 754 ha) produced more than three tons of fish per ha; this compared with 21 farms covering 930 ha in 1971, and continued a trend of several years. Few farms yielding less than 2.5 tons per ha are now operating in Israel. This impressive achievement has resulted from the application by competent farm operators of research done in Israel and elsewhere. This pool of skilled personnel can assist greatly in accelerating marine culture.
According to Israeli aquaculture experts, “The water shortage existing in Israel prevents further expansion of pond area”. Yet the demand for fish in 1974/75 is forecast to be 19 000 tons compared to a 1973 yield of 15 000 tons. To fill the gap, higher yields will be sought through better use of present (or even smaller) pond areas. In addition, attention is being turned seriously to fish culture in brackish and marine waters. At present no production of cultured fish comes from these waters.
In general the ecological conditions of coastal waters in Israel are not too favourable for aquaculture.
1. Temperatures are generally high. This favours growth of animals adapted to high temperature regimes, and can be regarded as a favourable factor except where very high temperatures nay prevail seasonally in certain areas, especially shallow regions with limited circulation.
2. Salinities are commonly higher than those of “normal” seawater. The number of commercially valuable organisms able to tolerate the prevailing salinity regions is limited.
3. There are very few estuarine areas, where fresh water lowers salinity to levels optimum for many of the commonly cultured animals, and perhaps more important, where nutrients are carried into the shallow regions to help nourish cultured animals and reduce feeding coats.
4. There are few protected bays along the coastline where cage culture can be established, such as the Japanese yellowtail industry and trout culture in Japan, Norway and elsewhere.
5. The productivity of the Israeli seas is relatively low, causing Tal to express the view that “it seems most likely that the contribution of fish farming1 to the fish yield in Israel will remain insignificant for a great many years”.
There are, however, ways of overcoming these deficiencies in the ecological conditions and to establish productive and profitable mariculture enterprises. In the main these are (a) to choose with care the organisms to be raised, (b) to make maximum use of the limited areas which are or can be made suitable for culture, and (c) to provide supplementary food to overcome the paucity of natural food in the water.
1 fish farming in the case of coastal waters