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Israel Seeks to Scale Fish Market

Israel is seeking markets in Europe for the gilt head sea bream, a fish it used to breed in the Bardawil Lake in northern Sinai and is now breeding for commercial use, in the waters of the Red Sea near Eilat. About 20 tons already have been exported, mainly to Rome. Ministry of Agriculture experts have been doing market studies in Europe–funded by the Jewish Agency–and initial findings are favorable, especially in Italy and Greece.

The fish are bred by the National Center for Maritime Agriculture, which has dispatched 13 scientists to the Red Sea to explore the commercial potential of the sea waters. The bream is the first practical result of their efforts, which have been financed in part by the Jewish Agency’s settlement department.

Kibbutz Elifaz in the Arava region began in 1984 to breed the sea bream in floating cages in the Red Sea. A pollution problem arose because every 1,000 tons of fish raised requires 2,500 tons of fish food, 60 percent of which is returned as waste. The Maritime Agricultural Center subsequently built inland sea water ponds to solve the problem. The Center is also breeding shrimp for export.

According to Dr. Hillel Gordin, director of the Maritime Agricultural Center, “In our vision we see the entire area from Eilat northward covered with fish ponds. We have only started scratching the potential. Eventually, it is a question of financial resources.”

Gordin noted that “Japan invests in maritime agricultural research some $750 million; Norway invests some $20 million annually. Israel settles for the time being on an annual investment of only $1 million.”

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