International and Regional Conventions
Israel is an active participant in the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) which provides an important forum for regional environmental activities. The plan was adopted in 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme and is widely acclaimed as a model of regional cooperation.
Israel has signed and ratified the 1976 Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution and its related protocols, and has actively participated in all components of the plan
(the Blue Plan, the Priority Actions Programme and the monitoring and research program known as MEDPOL). Israel has also signed and ratified the MARPOL 73/78 Convention and Annexes 1 and 2 of the convention.
Efforts are currently being made to sign, ratify and implement Annexes 3, 4 and 5 of the MARPOL 73/78 Convention as well as the 1990 Oil Pollution Responsibility and Cooperation Convention (OPRC) and international agreements for compensation in case of large-scale accidents Civil Liability Convention and the IOPCF (Funds) Convention.
Israel was one of the first Mediterranean states to sign a long-term national monitoring agreement within the framework of MEDPOL. Studies include systematic monitoring of heavy metals along the Israeli coastline, microbial pollution in bathing beaches, and monitoring of atmospheric pollution input into the Mediterranean in Ashdod and Hadera. These surveys have shown that the level of pollution along the Israeli coastline is relatively low compared to other industrialized countries, with the exception of Haifa Bay where higher concentrations of mercury and cadmium were detected. Nevertheless, all Israeli coastal waters meet international standards for chemical and bacterial pollution.
Marine Pollution Research
Israel’s research institutes take an active part in the research component of MEDPOL. This program is designed to provide a better understanding of the processes and phenomena involved in the complex mechanisms of pollution. Research proposals submitted by Israeli scientists in 1994 include:
* Transport of nonspherical particles in time-periodic shear flows expected to contribute to the understanding of pollutant dispersion processes in the sea and the atmosphere;
* Monitoring of the spatial and temporal distribution of phytoplankton pigments and suspended matter in the southeastern Mediterranean expected to contribute to the development of a remote sensing monitoring system for phytoplankton and suspended matter;
* Transport and inventory of mercury from point sources in Haifa Bay expected to improve the understanding of the fate of mercury emitted by two point sources into Haifa Bay;
* Marine vegetation of Habonim Nature Reserve expected to serve as an indicator for environmental changes and to contribute to the knowledge of the eastern Mediterranean algae population;
* Feeding biology, reproduction and intraspecific associations of the recent migrant to the Southeastern Mediterranean, scyphomedusa, Rhopilema nomadica expected to help explain the massive swarming of jellyfish along the eastern Mediterranean during the bathing season;
* Estimation of mixed function oxygenase (MFO) activity by immunochemical and molecular biology methods for detection of toxic organic pollutants in a coastal Mediterranean habitat expected to help establish an MFO system based on a bio-monitoring system for early detection of organic pollutants in marine organisms;
* Benthic foramenifera response to coal pollution expected to study the efficiency of using benthic foramenifera for monitoring coal pollution.
Legal Framework for Marine Pollution Prevention
The Prevention of Sea Water Pollution by Oil Ordinance, 1980, provides the legal basis for controlling marine oil pollution. The Ordinance forbids discharge of oil or oily water into Israel’s territorial and inland waters by any shore installation or vessel, and makes any such act a criminal offense. The law provides for the appointment of inspectors authorized to conduct investigations and searches to prevent or discover violations of the Ordinance or its regulations. Other salient features of the Ordinance and its regulations include: the obligation to keep oil record books on vessels; measures to be taken in case of discharge of oil; maximum fines for oil spillage; and liability for cleanup costs.
Regulations promulgated within the framework of the law require Israeli harbors to provide adequate reception facilities for oily wastes and require vessels to use these facilities. Other regulations provide for the operation of a Marine Pollution Prevention Fund to concentrate the financial resources for preventing and combating marine and coastal pollution and a Marine Environment Protection Fee imposed on all ships calling at Israeli ports and on oil terminals. These fees, along with fines imposed on violators of the marine pollution prevention laws, constitute the major sources of income for the fund which is utilized for operations such as purchase of equipment, law enforcement, beach and shore cleanup, etc.
The Prevention of Sea Pollution (Dumping of Waste) Law, 1983, controls dumping of waste at sea. It complies with the Dumping Protocol of the 1976 Barcelona Convention. The law prohibits the dumping of any waste from vessels and aircraft into the sea, except under a permit which may be issued by a special committee. A court convicting an offender under this law may require, in addition to the fine levied, payment of expenses for cleanup operations. The regulations include lists of substances which may or may not be dumped at sea as well as conditions for the issue of permits.
The Prevention of Sea Pollution from Land-Based Sources Law, 1988, which entered into force in 1990, deals with the major source of marine pollution. Under the law, industrial and municipal wastewater discharge into the sea is prohibited or regulated through a strict permit system. As in the Dumping Law, courts may impose severe fines and even imprisonment on the offender. Inspectors carry out investigations whenever a violation occurs. Regulations under this law include conditions for issuing permits and lists of substances which may or may not be discharged into the sea. The law complies with the Land-Based Sources Protocol of the 1976 Barcelona Convention.
The Maintenance of Cleanliness Law, 1984, is implemented through inspectors, the police and voluntary specially-designated cleanliness trustees. The law prohibits the disposal of any refuse in public areas, including litter left on the beach or thrown overboard from a vessel into the sea within Israel’s territorial waters. With regard to vessels, the law holds the skipper and owner of the vessel responsible for violations, and fines are imposed on them. Money collected from fines and penalties is deposited in a Cleanliness Fund and is used for specific projects including beach cleanup campaigns and environmental education.
The Ports Ordinance, 1971, provides for the operation and management of ports in Israel. It contains a specific section on the handling of hazardous substances in ports. Regulations promulgated under the law cover environmental matters such as the collection of waste, bilge and ballast water from vessels.
Regulations concerning the Loading and Discharging of Oil, promulgated in 1975 under the Ports Ordinance, control all procedures for safe loading and discharging of oil, and contain specific instructions regarding: entry into territorial waters and ports; vessel operations during their stay in terminal; measures for fire prevention and fire fighting; conditions of oil terminals; transfer of oil from road tankers; and other regulations aimed at ensuring environmentally-safe practices. While most of the regulations are supervised and enforced by the Ministry of Transport, provisions concerning environmental issues are administered by the inspectors of the Ministry of the Environment.
The Bathing Places Law of 1964 permits local authorities to formulate by-laws for maintaining the cleanliness of beaches. It empowers the Minister of the Interior, in consultation with the Minister of Health, to close bathing beaches for the protection of bathers.
Other laws are enforced by the Nature Reserves Authority to protect endangered species and areas at risk, such as Eilat’s coral reef ecosystem.