The Red Sea resort city’s coral reefs are among the world’s northernmost, and they are notable for their resilience to climatic change

Zafrir Rinat May. 25, 2022

The Eilat coral reef, 2019
The Eilat coral reef, 2019Credit: irisphoto1/Shutterstock

Two hundred fifty scientists have warned the city of Eilat that the lighting on a new boardwalk that is being installed in the Red Sea resort town will cause significant damage to its coral reef.

The scientists appealed to the municipality through the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. They ask that the city cooperate with professionals in the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in order to minimize the damage caused by artificial light in the event their recommendation not to install the lighting fixtures is rejected.

The Tourism Ministry is moving forward with plans for a new boardwalk for the beaches in the north of the city, including Coral Beach and Zin Beach. The plan includes light fixtures along the entire length of the boardwalk. Eilat’s coral reef, which is close to the shore, is one of the northernmost coral reefs in the world, and its location gives it exceptional resistance to climate change. This heightens the reef’s significance in the future as a refuge for biodiversity conservation while also increasing the likelihood that it can continue to attract tourists.

However, the reef is vulnerable to various environmental threats, including extensive beach development, overfishing and pollution. Recent studies of coral reefs in Eilat and abroad have demonstrated that coral is very sensitive to artificial light at night and that its future depends on the natural synchronization of light and darkness. The use of LED light bulbs, which are brighter and generate light that is paler in tone than other artificial light sources, disrupts the natural synchronization of coral and causes them to photosynthesize less.

The scientists also warn that the planned lighting fixtures will affect the reproductive cycles of the coral as well as that of sea turtles in the Gulf of Eilat, jeopardizing the future of the reef. The signatories to the letter include many of the most prominent researchers of the gulf over the past several decades.

If the city rejects the demand to abandon the boardwalk project, the scientists ask that the lights be set to operate as dimly as possible and adjusted so that the light does not shine in the direction of the sea, in accordance with existing recommendations by the parks authority. They also call for the Environmental Protection Ministry to monitor the lighting.

The parks authority said in a statement that it welcomes the scientists’ letter. The Eilat municipality did not respond before press time.