Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel on Friday said a tar spill off Israel’s coast that is believed to have killed a whale was a major disaster, and that authorities were searching for those responsible.
The 17-meter (55-foot) fin whale washed up on the Nitzanim reserve in southern Israel on Thursday, along with other sea creatures.
The Parks Authority said it wasn’t clear what caused the death of the whale and other creatures, but director Shaul Goldstein cited a possible tar spill from a ship and said that a “tar pollution” incident was plaguing area waters in the eastern Mediterranean sea.
Gamliel said on Friday she had completed an assessment of the incident “tar incident” with local authorities.
“This is hazard of a magnitude we have not seen in years. We are doing everything in order to find those responsible for the destruction, and are preparing for the difficult and long task of rehabilitating the beaches and preventing further injury to animals,” Gamliel said.
On Thursday, Gamliel called the spill “heartbreaking” “crime against the environment and ecosystem,” and said she had ordered the care of injured animals be the response’s top priority.
The Environmental Protection Ministry said the tar contamination appeared to be from oils that were emitted by a ship off the coast.
Aviad Scheinin of the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station said a team will take samples from the whale to try to determine a cause of death.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority said the whale was young, noting mature fin whales in the Mediterranean can grow to 20 meters.
A similar whale washed up dead in the area in 2016.