By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Conservationists on Sunday called on the public to report to the authorities any individuals emptying materials into the Gulf of Aqaba, following the discovery of dead fish in the Red Sea.

On September 5, Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) teams recorded several dead fish floating in the Gulf of Aqaba, JREDS Executive Director Fadi Sharaiha said yesterday, noting that samples were sent to labs to identify the cause of death.

“Lab tests indicated that the fish were poisoned by a chemical substance,” Sharaiha told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.

He noted that the society informed the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) for further investigation as a precautionary measure, noting that the incident was the second registered case since the beginning of the year.

Sharaiha speculated that the poisoning was either due to a person illegally dumping chemical substances into the sea or a fisherman’s botched attempt to sedate the fish.

“We urge people to contact authorities about any individual dumping substances into the seaة preserving marine life is a joint responsibility,” Sharaiha highlighted.

Meanwhile, ASEZA Environment Commissioner Salim Moghrabi confirmed the incident, but stressed that the number of dead fish was “very limited” and refuted speculation that fishermen sedated the fish.

“Fishermen in the Gulf of Aqaba are law-abiding and they use legal and traditional ways to catch fish. ASEZA carries out strict and systematic monitoring of the beaches as well as meat and fish sold at markets,” Moghrabi told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.

He noted that authorities have not received any health-related complaints regarding fish unfit for human consumption.

The environment commissioner said he suspected that the death of the “limited number of fish” was caused by people who illegally use chemical substances to sedate tropical fish living in the coral reefs to catch and sell them as pets on the black market.

Reputed for having one of the world’s most unique coral reef systems, Aqaba’s Red Sea waters are a prime attraction for both tourists and divers.

Some of the underwater treasures include around 127 species of hard coral and 300 kinds of soft coral, and thousands of plants and animals that have coexisted in the gulf for hundreds of years.