JERUSALEM, Israel - Beginning on January 1, Israel's Agriculture Ministry will cease issuing commercial fishing licenses for the Sea of Galilee for the next two years.
The long-term goal of the ban, which includes rivers that empty into the sea, is two replenish the fish in the nation's primary source of sweet water.
Over the past 10 years, overfishing combined with five consecutive winters of below average winter rains have depleted the quantities of fish in the sea.
"The data raised serious concerns of an ecological disaster that would take place, turning the Kinneret [Hebrew for Sea of Galilee] into a lake completely devoid of fish," Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman Dafna Yurista said.
"The fishing ban is necessary in light of the public interest in maintaining sustainable fishing in the Kinneret to support an ecological balance and to enable a reasonable livelihood for fisherman in the years to come," she said.
During the two-year moratorium, the ministry will reimburse commercial fisherman from a proposed 5.7 million shekel - about $1.5 million - annual budget allocation. Fishermen will also be eligible for additional funds to upgrade their boats and equipment during the freeze.
"This decision will benefit the real fishermen who fish for their livelihood since it will cause the rehabilitation of the fish population in the Kinneret and ensure them incomes in the future," director of the ministry's fishing division, Chaim Anjoni, said.
Commercial fishermen who ignore the ban face fines and confiscation of their boats.
During the moratorium, noncommercial fishermen can still enjoy fishing from the shore, which doesn't require a license.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.