The first-ever zoological survey conducted in the depths of the Gulf of Aqaba by Eilat this January found a greater diversity of marine life and a wider dispersion of coral than expected. Less happily, however, the surveyors also found impressive amounts of garbage in the water.
Some of the coral types in the reefs could be new to science, the surveyors suggest. They also documented a batoid (a relative of manta rays, which are relatives of sharks) at a depth of 93 meters. Near the Japanese Gardens, corals were found at a depth of 139 meters.
The survey was conducted on the seabed using a robot sub in depths of 40 to 140 meters at four spots: Eilat port, the oil tanker "parking lot" belonging to the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company, the Japanese Gardens, and the shore off the Princess Hotel. It was done by Israel's Nature and Parks Authority with the The Inter-University Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat and the EcoOcean association. The remote vehicle was operated by Oded Ezra on the institute's research boat and the research was headed by Dr. Assaf Zvuluni, the head biologist at the institute.
However, the researchers found more than just sea life – they also came across a lot of trash, from discarded ropes and fishing nets to beach chairs, beer bottles and soda cans. Although the corals they studied were deep, they're also close to the beaches and are vulnerable to environmental pollution, Zvuluni says. The Parks authority has suggested declaring the coral a nature reserve.