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Plan to Map Coral Reefs off Fujairah Coast

Staff Reporter
Filed on December 30, 2009

FUJAIRAH — Experts are planning to undertake comprehensive mapping of coral reefs off the coast of Fujairah to plan for their conservation, officials stated. Mohammed Al Afkham, Director of the Fujairah Municipality, recently met experts from the National Coral Reef Institute, based in the United States, and representatives of the Emirates Wildlife Society to discuss the research underway and planned.

Fujairah and other Arabian Gulf and Sea areas were named one of the priority Global 200 Ecoregions identified by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), with whom EWS is partnered.

EWS-WWF and the US-based reef institute, along with local government support, installed four coral reef monitoring stations on the seabed between Fujairah city and Dibba in 2007.

The institute’s researchers said the reefs on the East Coast had not yet been studied and remain uncharted.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Director of EWS-WWF, said preliminary work had been conducted on several sites in Fujairah and reef monitoring stations installed.

“EWS-WWF is in the process of raising much-needed funding towards this programme in order to secure a more comprehensive study similar to the project EWS-WWF and its partners concluded in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and eastern Qatar,” Al Mubarak said.

Previously, the institute and other UAE environment agencies teamed up to map, using satellite imagery and fieldwork, a range of coral reefs lying in Qatari and Abu Dhabi waters.

The three-year study found that regional coastal development was accelerating coral die-off and enabled the agencies to draw up an appropriate conservation plan.

Coral reefs of the UAE are particularly of interest as they can sustain extreme conditions of salinity and temperatures that normally coral reefs would not elsewhere in the world.

They could provide a good model to predict what climate change will do in the future and offer solutions in areas impacted by rising sea water temperatures elsewhere in the world.

The studies are a step towards developing a comprehensive programme for the conservation and management of the reefs for biodiversity, fishery and tourism and propose management options for the marine protected areas already in place.

Al Afkham highlighted the urgent need to better understand the role Fujairah coastal waters has in the conservation of marine biodiversity, spawning and nursery grounds for the regional coral reefs and fish stocks, and to minimise the impacts of coastal development and other activities.

The research is part of the municipality’s increased focus on environmental issues which has resulted in the creation of a new division “Protected areas management and Sustainable Development Division”, according to the statement issued this week. The division will manage protected areas and maintain and protect biodiversity.

Ali Qasem, Head of the Environment and Development Department, said the new division would give the municipality extra teeth to protect the emirate’s environment.

“It has become vital to have a special division dedicated to wildlife protection and sustainable management for our natural resources in Fujairah,” he said. This division will look after the protected areas, maintain, protect and promote them for ecotourism and mobilise funds to enhance the protection of wildlife.

A law passed by Fujairah’s Ruler created the first marine protected areas of the UAE in Rul Dibba-Al Faqueet, Dhadna, Al Aqa and Bidiyah in 1995.

Reefs in the UAE provide a marine ecosystem, protect coasts from erosion, support commercial fishing and recreational activities. However, coastal development and tourism are increasing in Fujairah, putting pressure on the reefs. —

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