September 30, 2022
Image: Minister Tamar Zandberg, center (white shirt) at the signing ceremony (c) Yaniv Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority
PALMAHIM NATIONAL PARK, ISRAEL
In a historic move on September 21st, 2022, Tamar Zandberg, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, signed a decree declaring the first unique marine reserve in the middle of the sea, called Glishat Palmahim. Quoted from an official statement from the Ministry, “This is a unique reserve of its kind within the exclusive economic zone [EEZ] of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. This area doubles the marine protected areas in Israel.” This MPA is located in the Palmahim Slide Hope Spot, launched by Mission Blue in July 2022.
The Hope Spot Champions and their organization The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) have been promoting the reserve for four and a half years, starting with publishing the first proposal for the reserve in 2018 and succeeding in assimilating the proposal in the MSP published by the government in 2020. Given the reserve’s vague legal status, SPNI advised on how to strategically secure the area in Israel’s EEZ.
The signing ceremony took place at the Palmahim National Park managed by the Nature and Parks Authority. The minister’s signature came after a partnered effort of the team of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which was one of the initiators based on findings discovered by Dr. Yitzhak Makovsky from the University of Haifa and Dr. Maxim Robin Blum of the Israel Seas and Lakes Research and their team.
Minister Zandberg says, “We are in the midst of two corresponding crises: the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, leading to the accelerated extinction of species. The promotion of marine reserves is critical in order to help both in improving resilience against the changes and in protecting species over time.” She continues, “Human life depends on nature. In order for it to protect us, we must protect it. The Palmahim Slide is a marine area rich in natural values and species unique to the Mediterranean Sea, and in general, today we are making history and spreading a protective layer over the area that will help us protect this rare environment.”
Quoted from an official statement from the Ministry, “the protected area contains a total area of approximately 450 square kilometers. The State of Israel has previously committed to global initiatives to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, which Minister Zandberg signed in September 2021. Previously, Israel had only protected 1% of its waters, and with the new MPA, the total protected and reserved marine area is 2.6%.”
“As part of the amendment to the declaration of national parks, nature reserves, national sites and memorial sites (protected natural values), it is expected that all fish and invertebrates in the area of the polygons marked as part of the Palmahim Slide will be declared as protected natural values, similar to the protection of these species in the areas within the territorial waters (the coral reserve and the Mediterranean Sea reserves). The announcement, which was promoted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature, is essential, given the uniqueness and high ecological importance of the area and the need to protect the natural values found in it from harm and threat.”