The head of the Eilat Dolphin Reef and two of the site's workers were recently convicted by the Eilat Magistrate's Court of severely damaging the sensitive coral reef off the southern resort city's shores.
The three were convicted of destroying a protected natural site.
The case dates back to 2007, when workers at the Eilat Dolphin Reef – a unique ecological site which serves as a dolphin habitat – laid out new nets at the bottom of the ocean and dug tunnels that went through the coral reef.
According to the prosecution, the work was done sans the necessary permits with complete indifference to the coral reef. As a result parts of the reef – some believed to be hundreds of years old – were irrevocably damaged.
The work also damaged the habitats of several species of fish, sea sponges (phylum Porifera) and sea urchins.
According to the case file, the Israel Nature and National Parks Service issued an order of the Eilat Dolphin Reef to cease its work near the reef, but the order was ignored.
The prosecution presented the court with photos of the damaged reef, depicting broken, torn and uprooted corals and fish that were caught in the ill-placed nets.
The Eilat Dolphin Reef's manager and his two employees pled not guilty, saying that the work was necessary to protect the reef and that it was done according to all due caution and coral preservation protocols.
The court rejected the argument saying that the Eilat Dolphin Reef failed to seek the advice or permission of the Nature and National Parks Service prior or during the work, and failed to adhere to the writ ordering the work's cessation.
The court also found that the impact on the coral reef was substantial and widespread and that the area will need extensive rehabilitation work.
Reprinted with permission from PsakDin.co.il