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Mermaids really do exist. So say a new wave of believers who swear they’ve seen the fabled fish in the flesh.

In the town of Kirvat Yam, Israel, where dozens of people have reported mermaid sightings, a $1.2m (£609,000) reward is on the line for anyone who can prove by photo or capture that mermaids do exist.

“Many people are telling us they are sure they’ve seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” Kirvat Yam town council spokesman Natti Zilberman said.

Many of the sightings have taken place at sunset, attracting crowds of tourists and locals alike, hoping to snap a picture of the mythological creature.

“People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks, then disappears,” Zilberman said.

The town council, which is offering the reward, insists that the mermaid mania is not just a marketing ploy to attract tourists, though it does hope tourists will come out to try their luck at the $1 million prize. “I believe,” Zilberman said, “if there really is a mermaid, then so many people and tourists will come to Kiryat Yam, a lot more money will be made than $1 million.”

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