Fish cages finally leaving Eilat
The controversial practice of raising fish in cages in the Gulf of Eilat will come to an end this month, after a 20-year fight between environmental organizations and the fisheries.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, by last weekend there were only four cages in the Red Sea off Eilat, belonging to the Ardag fishery, and still legally able to be marketed.
Another company, Dag Suf, had no more cages in the water. Ardag is to stop marketing the fish by the end of the week, and will then remove the last of its cages from the water.
The two companies, which originally had 105 cages in the water, are now planning to develop mariculture facilities off the coast of Ashdod, and will look into establishing fish ponds on land in the southern Arava, north of Eilat.
The cages were the focus of one of the most vociferous environmental fights in Israel in recent years.
Scientists and environmental organizations argued that the excretions from the fish were the primary cause of the decline in the health of the coral reef in Eilat, while the two fisheries disputed the claim, and demanded to be allowed to continue using the cages to raise their fish.
After a long, drawn-out process, the planning authorities decided not to include the fish cages in the master plan for the Gulf of Eilat, and the cabinet voted to have them removed from the water by the summer of 2008. Legal action was also taken against Ardag and Dag Suf for operating out of unlicensed structures on the beach, as a result of which the companies agreed to remove the cages from the water.
The environmental organization Zalul, on the forefront of the fight against the fisheries, said yesterday that the end of the process was an important environmental achievement that will help protect the Gulf of Eilat.
"With the full implementation of the cabinet decision, a new age begins at the Gulf of Eilat," the group said. "This is the first time a polluting industry has been closed after having been found harmful to the environment. We will continue to fight the other threats facing the gulf, among them pollution from the port, uncontroled diving and municipal sewage leakage," Zalul added.