July 11, 2008

Jordan’s Marine Species Smuggling Comes to Standstill: Official

Jordan's marine species smuggling comes to standstill: official

AMMAN, July 10 (Xinhua) -- The systematic smuggling of coral and other marine species in Aqaba's coastal waters has recently come to a standstill after a three-month crackdown, local daily Jordan Times reported on Thursday.

There have been no reports of such activity since a major crackdown initiated three months ago, said Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) Director Fadi Sharaiha, adding that "It seems the smugglers are cautious and have decided to lie low for now."

Environmental police and officials from the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), JREDS and the Aqaba Marine Park joined hands in April to launch a major sweep on illegal shops and suspected smugglers.

"In some of the shops we found eels and lionfish, which are not permitted to be fished, transported or traded by law, as well as coral and other marine species in the smugglers' houses," said Sharaiha.

Around 10 to 20 percent of the marine species died in the smuggling due to bad living conditions, according to the official.

Aqaba's coral reefs host around 127 species of hard coral and 300 kinds of soft coral, as well as thousands of plants and animals that have coexisted in the gulf for hundreds of years.

The Red Sea port of Aqaba, located in the far south of Jordan and some 350 km south of its capital Amman, is the country's only seaport.

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