Danger looms for coral reefs

ABU DHABI - Coral reefs are on the path of destruction if protective measures are not taken as soon as possible.


Silvia Radan

Published: Sat 14 Jun 2008, 6:40 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 6:29 PM

According to Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, managing director of Emirates Wildlife Society Ñ World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF), 30 per cent of the Gulf's coral reefs are threatened and in critical stage, while 67 per cent are already lost due to natural causes (high fluctuation in temperatures or diseases) and man-made activities (oil pollution, coastal urban development, unregulated commercial and recreational fishing).

"There is good news and bad news. The good news is there are still coral reefs left, but the bad news is they are in a poor condition and we need a magic plan, including protective legislation and activities to stop the degradation," said Al Mubarak.

Both the good and the bad news were revealed at the recent release of the final report of the Coral Reef Investigations in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

The three-year investigation, from January 2005 till December 2007, were conducted by EWS-WWF, in cooperation with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), Qatar's Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR) and supported by Dolphine Energy.

One of the objectives of this investigation was to map, for the first time, the range of coral reefs in shallow waters along the coast and islands of Abu Dhabi and Eastern Qatar. The work also included detailed assessment of the condition and potential for recovery of various degraded coral systems.

"The overall goal was to develop a long-term conservation management plan for the coral reef habitats for the benefit of the reefs themselves, sustainable local fish stocks and for the future generations of the UAE and Qatar," said Ibrahim Al Ansari, general manager of Dolphine Energy Ð UAE.

"We now know that the regional coastal development is accelerating the death of corals. The dangers involved have been assessed in the Coral Reef Management Plan in this project," added Al Ansari.

The management plan, which suggests protective measures for coral reefs, is to be implemented by the EAD on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Government and SCENR on behalf of Qatar. EWS-WWF and EAD are also planning to develop more partnerships with other private or government institutions, apart from Dolphin.

"In Qatar, we are already planning to declare most of the coral reef zones as protected areas," said Yousef Al Hamar, director of the Technical Affairs Department of SCENR.

One of the proposals for the UAE is that the coral reefs reach areas of Ras Ghanada and offshore Sadyiat islands to be made a reserve/national park.

"Coral reefs are part of the overall marine eco-system and we are now in the process of designing a new legislation for the sea environment, which will include designated protected areas and controlled urban development," revealed Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, director of EAD's Marine Environment Research Centre.

Apart from working on the preservation plan, EWS-WWF is also looking for further partnerships and sponsorships to extend the coral reef investigation to the eastern coast of the UAE.

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