by Hana Namrouqa | Jul 05, 2014

AMMAN — The Environment Ministry has rejected a project to establish fish farms in Aqaba due to its negative impact on marine life, according to a senior government official.

Environment Minister Taher Shakhshir said the ministry followed up the plan to establish fish farms in the Gulf of Aqaba and studied its impact on marine life, coral reefs and the limited shoreline.

“I have disapproved the project and sent letters to the prime minister and the chief commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority to explain the impact of the project,” Shakhshir told The Jordan Times in a phone interview.

A private engineering and construction company, chaired by a current parliamentarian, was planning to establish the project in the Aqaba Marine Park, according to the Jordanian Federation for Environmental NGOs, which expressed its “absolute rejection” of the project, warning against its adverse impact on marine life and coral reefs.

In March this year, the federation sent a letter to Shakhshir in which they briefed him about the project and its impact on the marine environment.

It also urged the minister to “take strict and precautionary measures to prevent the implementation of this dangerous and highly sensitive project” and to protect what is left of Aqaba’s coastline that is open to the public.
The fish farms were projected to be established in the Aqaba Marine Park, a nature reserve located 15 kilometres from downtown Aqaba.

“In addition to its impact on marine life, the project will reduce what is left of the beaches open for the public,” Shakhshir underscored, highlighting that the project will likely be implemented in another country.

Studies show that 22 kilometres of Aqaba’s 27-kilometre long coastline are occupied by ports, investments and private beaches, and only five kilometres is open to the public, according to the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan.

The government declared the Aqaba Marine Park, a seven-kilometre beach located along the southern coastline of the port city, a nature reserve in 1997 with the aim of protecting the marine environment from rising pollution resulting from the rapid growth of Aqaba’s population and expansion in its industrial activities, according to the park’s website.

Marine environmentalists noted that the project, if implemented, would affect the fish population and coral reefs, thus affecting the socio-economic conditions of fishermen and owners of glass-bottom boats in Aqaba.