Eilat Fish Cages: Out of frying pan, into Ashdod harbor

The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) reported that yesterday (September 14) the Israeli government approved plans to place fish cages in the Ashdod harbor.  This marine agriculture initiative was removed from the Eilat harbor after a controversy over whether they were harming the coral reefs in the Bay of Eilat/Aqaba.  Without getting into the discussion over the situation in Eilat, which was covered extensively in any possible forum, no-one is arguing that the cages will harm the water quality in Ashdod port.

Quite the opposite.  Aside from the tremendous activity of large ships, which are a source of fuel and oil contamination, the harbor area includes a large industrial area with oil refineries, a power plant and Agan Chemicals, whose effluent reaches the harbor without passing through a treatment plant.  These effluents include such hazardous chemicals as pesticides, methanol, fuel mixtures, ammonia, disinfectants and more, which have accumulated in the port waters over the years.

These chemicals will accumulate in the tissues of the fish if they are present in the water, and may very well present a health hazard to the people who eat the fish.  Since the fish in the cages are raised for food, this presents a very probable threat to human health.

This decision was approved unanimously by a joint committee of the Prime Minister’s office and the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Environment, with only 48 hours advance notice. The basis for the plan was to provide jobs for the the workers of the fish farms, until land based facilities in the Arava can be built within 10 years.  According to the IUED, no testing was conducted to establish the levels of pollutants in the Asdod Harbor waters, and no professional opinion was presented by public health officials.  The IUED demands that the decision be postponed until the harbor is cleaned up and the water is certified to be clean.

It remains to the consumers of the fish to be aware where the fish come from and hope that the ministries of Health and Agriculture will supervise and test the fish to make sure that they are safe to eat.

IUED – Where do the fish swim? (Hebrew)

Ynet – The government approves: fish cages to be stationed in Ashdod harbor (Hebrew)

Photo credit: Eggybird, flickr.com

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