DECEMBER 8, 2019
by Jonah Mandel
Great white pelicans eat fish provided by Israeli farmers at a water reservoir in the Emek Hefer valley north of Tel Aviv
Migratory pelicans have long raided Israeli fish farms, which try to deter them with loudspeakers, laser beams and by firing blank rounds from rifles.
In their desperation, they have come up with another way: offering the birds a free lunch.
An estimated 50,000 pelicans stop off in Israel during their annual migration from the Balkans to Africa, where they enjoy a mild winter before returning to Europe.
They rest and feed in the Middle Eastern country for weeks, causing chaos for fish farmers, whose outdoor commercial pools and reservoirs provide rich pickings.
Before the pelicans reach Israel, "they have nowhere to stop and eat", said Eli Sharir, general manager of the Israel Fish Breeders Association.
The impact on the fish farms is enormous.
"We're talking millions of shekels a year," he said.
So six years ago Israeli fisherman came up with a solution—providing alternative feed with unmarketable fish to try to keep pelicans away from the commercial pools.
One recent day on a reservoir in northern Israel, hundreds of great white pelicans swooped down to position themselves in the shallow waters, eyeing a truck backing up to the water's edge.
Then the truck dropped its cargo of thousands of small, live, flapping fish into the water, where they were almost instantly scooped up by the pelicans' nimble beaks.