A panel of experts from Israel and abroad on Sunday urged the government to immediately halt fish farming in Israel's Red Sea coastal waters, saying pollution from operation is killing a unique coral reef.
Scientists from the United States, Germany and Israel appeared before ministers at Sunday's weekly Cabinet meeting and testified that waste from the fish farm, at the northern edge of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, is wrecking the natural balance of the clear warm waters that allow the coral to survive.
"Zalul," an Israeli environmental lobby group, says that over the past five years the coral reef _ the most northerly in the world now is 70 percent dead.
A Cabinet statement said there was no vote on the panel's recommendations, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised a Cabinet decision "within weeks."
A cooperative of five kibbutz collective farms operates the Eilat fishery, which produces about 1,400 tons of fish annually, mainly sea bream and sea bass.
Zalul says that one option was to move the fishery to land-based salt water tanks, which are used elsewhere in the world.
Apart from the ecological importance of the reef, which is home to a wide variety of marine life, it is a major tourist attraction, drawing thousands of divers and tourists who inspect the reefs from special glass-bottomed tour boats.
Eilat lies at Israel's southern tip, next to the Jordanian port of Aqaba.