Here's What You Need to Know About Israel's 2021 Oil Spill

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Feb. 23 2021, Updated 4:30 p.m. ET

Israel Oil Spill
Source: Getty Images

Men clean tar from the sand as part of the beach cleanup effort after tar covered Israel's coast on Feb. 22, 2021 in Hadera, Israel. Tar started washing up on the country's beaches last week, leading its interior minister to advise people to stay away from beaches. Authorities suspect the spill was caused by a leak from an offshore ship.

One of the many unfortunate side effects of relying on non-renewable energy is the potential for a catastrophic oil spill — transporting oil from place to place by boat can often result in oil spills, which brings irreparable damage to waterways and nearby lands. And sadly, Israel is currently in the process of cleaning up a mysterious oil spill that was discovered in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday, Feb 21. 

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“The beach looks OK, but it’s all underneath... It’ll take decades to clean," said a volunteer cleaning a local Israeli beach, according to The Guardian. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Israel's 2021 oil spill that many are currently referring to as "an ecological disaster."

oil spill israel
Source: Getty Images

An Israeli worker walks through the site of an oil spill after a pipeline leaked during maintenance work on December 9, 2014 in the Arava desert, near Eilat, southern Israel. Cleanup teams are working to minimize the damage after millions of liters of crude oil gushed into the Evrona nature reserve in one of Israel's worst-ever environmental disasters.

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What caused the 2021 oil spill in Israel?

Unfortunately, the details regarding the cause of Israel's latest oil spill are quite vague as of publication. According to The Guardian, the company that caused the spill has yet to come forward, though there are currently a few suspects in the process of being identified. Investigators are currently viewing satellite images for evidence, and dissecting a dead beached fin whale who had an oil-based liquid in their lungs, which may give details on when and where the disaster took place.

Israel's Environmental Protection Minister, Gila Gamliel, said the damage from the February 2021 oil spill will cost tens of millions of shekels to clean up. Once the culprit is confirmed, the country will most likely sue the ship's insurance company for the amount of damage that has been done, which is still in the process of being uncovered.

“Our moral obligation to the public is to locate those responsible for the event,” Gamliel said, as per The Guardian.

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oil spill damage
Source: Getty Images

The map of Israel's oil spills show its widespread effects:

As previously mentioned, the damage stemming from Israel's 2021 oil spill is still in the process of being uncovered, but it has already affected at least 100 miles — or 40 percent — of the country's coastline, as well as about 90 percent of local beaches, according to NPR. Thousands of volunteers and local organizations are currently working to clean up the mess, though it could take several years.

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According to EcoWatch, Israel's oil spill has spread as far as the beaches of southern Lebanon. Countless birds and turtles have been found covered in tar, and a handful have died. Ecologists are also very worried about local Dendropoma petraeum populations, a local reef-building snail which has been rapidly declining in recent years due to the effects of climate change. 

"The enormous amounts of tar emitted in recent days to the shores of Israel from south to north caused one of the most severe ecological disasters to hit Israel," the country's Nature and Parks Authority said, as per EcoWatch.

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The oil spill will be difficult to make a comeback from, and needless to say, we have the natural lands of Israel in our hearts. If this isn't a surefire sign for governments to start making serious changes to shy away from non-renewables, we truly don't know what is.

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