The state-owned Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company and others were convicted on Thursday of harming protected nature in the Red Sea after damaging more than 2,600 corals off the southern coastal town of Eilat.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority provided reports and photographs to prove the damage, citing 665 corals that were aged around 50 and whose rehabilitation would take many years. It also documented harm to many creatures whose lives depend on corals, including fish and invertebrates.
EAPC’s Eilat director Ze’ev Zel, a company called South Marina Divers Ltd and its director Eyal Bar Zion were also found culpable.
The EAPC works out of the northern pier of the Eilat Oil Port. In January 2014, it contracted South Marina Divers to carry out works, which included dismantling construction piles — long cylinders that provide support for structures built on top of them. During the works — for which permission should have been sought from the Nature and Parks Authority but was not — several piles toppled into the sea.
According to the charge sheet submitted to the Eilat Magistrate’s Court, the work, including the removal of the piles, caused “serious damage” to life forms that were growing on them as well as to reefs growing at their feet.
Judge Tomer Orinov rejected claims by the pipeline company and South Marina Divers that the damage was modest and that INPA permission was not required, instead accepting the testimony of the INPA’s Eilat District Ecologist Dr Assaf Zvuloni.
In November, the EAPC was ordered to pay NIS 100 million ($28 million) in damages over a 2014 oil spill in southern Israel, considered to be the worst ecological disaster in the country’s history, according to the terms of a settlement reached in a class action suit.