The RED SEA: Protecting the World’s LAST Coral Refuge

June 5, 2021

Mangrove trees standing tall at Qulaan at Wadi El Gemal, Egypt. Photo by Eco Egypt

In celebration of World Environment Day 2021 we join the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, to prevent, reverse and halt the degradation of ecosystems in Egypt through the launching of the first Red Sea Marine Conservation campaign in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as part of the ECO EGYPT campaign over the course of the next three months, ending August 2021.

Your most cherished memories.

From building sandcastles to seeing beautiful creatures on the shore and in the sea, these moments create long-lasting memories from our childhood into adult life, in turn, making us who we are.

How can we ensure that our children inherit the same treasured memories?

On our family beach vacations, we are often unaware of tourism and human activities’ pressures on the natural environment, inflicting serious consequences on biodiversity, economic productivity, local cultures, livelihoods, and human health.

Today, the conservation of the world’s oceans, seas, and delicate marine environment has become essential to secure the health and wellbeing of all living species.

A complicated relationship between humanity and the sea.

In Egypt, approximately 80% of inbound and local travelers target the Red Sea region; one of the most sensitive biodiversity hubs remaining globally. However, the increasing influx of tourists in the Egyptian Red Sea region has added negative pressures on this pristine ecosystem.

Although tourists, beachgoers, and watersport enthusiasts continue to enjoy this beautiful coastline; some remain oblivious to their detrimental contribution to waste generation, littering, unsustainable diving, and snorkeling practices, as well as the feeding and collection of marine species. Human pressures placed on the ecosystem are also often the basis of coral diseases that affect both coral populations and reef-associated species.

Sun on the shores of Giftun Island, Egypt. Photo by Eco Egypt

The Red Sea: A Beacon of Light

In many areas around the globe, corals are getting stressed by changes in their environment such as warmer water temperatures which manifests in a process called “bleaching”. If they remain under strain for too long, they lose their color and turn white. Coral bleaching eliminates their main food source risking their health and the health of the reef ecosystems.

A study published by the World Resources Institute stated that without prompt action towards conserving coral reef ecosystems, they could completely disappear by 2050.

In the Red Sea, corals are well-known for their ability to tolerate the heat and the rising temperatures, making it the last coral refuge globally.

This singular characteristic could be traced back to its unique history and formation; the basin’s warmth and its isolation allowed the corals to evolve in that manner. Due to the Red Sea’s coral thermal resistance, conservationists can utilize our corals to find global solutions for coral bleaching, creating hope for a future that includes our seas.

Today, the Red Sea hosts more than 1,000 different species of fish and around 350 coral species with a rate of endemism of 14.7% (percentage of species unique to the region) ranking the third globally. As a result, tourists are attracted to this ecological haven which contributes significantly to Egypt’s economic productivity and the enhancement of local livelihood. The Red Sea has also historically served as a strong connection between diverse cultures and people. In Egypt alone, several tribal communities along the coastline derive customs, norms, values, and identity directly from the marine environment. Therefore, conserving and protecting this unique environment which has contributed to Egypt’s societal development both economically and culturally, is our responsibility.

Saving the Red Sea: How can we give back?

By launching the Marine Conservation Campaign, we aim to protect the Red Sea’s marine and coastal environment, and alleviate human pressures placed on its ecosystem. To attain our goal; we created a series of awareness-raising videos and posters showcasing these detrimental effects.

Egypt’s Marine Conservation campaign is part of ECO EGYPT in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA), Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Egyptian Hotel Association (EHA), and the Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS).

ECO EGYPT is a nationwide campaign led by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) in Egypt and developed by the Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Egypt’s Tourism (MBDT) project, implemented by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP Egypt), and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

“This campaign came at the right time…conserving our environment means safeguarding our children’s right to nature’’, the words of Saeed, a South Sinai local Bedouin. The sustenance of marine biodiversity preserves our natural heritage and resources, ensuring the viability of Egypt’s coastal tourism.

The campaign advocacy material will be launched on social media, online public relations platforms, in press media and displayed in airports, local airlines, buses, hotels, dive centers, and public billboards across Egypt to showcase individual tourist practices and their detrimental effects on associated marine species. In tandem, the videos propose easy solutions to help protect and restore the ecosystem.

You affect more lives than you can imagine.

Allow present and future generations to experience the Red Sea with all its beauty.

It is our promise. It is our legacy.

Learn how you can be part of the solution.

#Dive_and_keepit_alive #Live_green #GenerationRestoration

Story By: Iman El Chehaly & Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Tourism Development (MBDT) Project Team