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Galilee Fishermen Suspected Of Poisoning Fish For Easy Catch

September 2, 1988

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Thousands of dead fish were found floating on the Jordan River, possibly poisoned by fishermen on the Sea of Galilee looking for an easy catch, an official said Friday.

″We suspect large-scale poisoning using agricultural pesticides,″ said Elad Zohar, an area supervisor.

Zohar said the pesticides apparently were dumped in the Sea of Galilee and killed more fish than the fishermen could catch. Thousands of the poisoned fish then floated from the fresh water lake into the narrow, winding Jordan River, he said.

The Bible says the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus performed his miracle of the fish and loaves, feeding 5,000 people from five barley loaves of bread and two fish. It also is where he walked on water to dispel doubts among his disciples.

″The damage caused by the poisoning is very great,″ Zohar told The Associated Press. ″For every fish caught, three others are rotting and washing ashore.″

In addition, those caught still carry the poison in their systems. Israel radio broadcast a warning, saying fresh water fish should not be eaten.

Zohar blamed the poisoning on ″marginal elements″ among the Sea of Galilee’s 180 commercial fishermen and said it wasn’t the first time it had happened.

″Poisoning usually takes place during low periods when fish are hard to catch,″ Zohar said. ″It also happens when fishermen don’t feel like going out and working.″

Zohar said thousands of fish died, primarily carp and St. Peter’s, named after the fisherman who became an apostle of Jesus.

Alma Avni, a senior Health Ministry official, said the mass poisoning may be related to the upcoming month of holy days, including the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, during which fish is a popular staple. She said poisoned fish eaten in small quantities would not harm humans because it took much less poison to kill a fish than a human.

But she cautioned fish-eaters ″to make certain the fish they buy comes with a certificate showing where the fish were caught and who caught them.″

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