November 3, 2022
EGYPT, RED SEA –
The Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea in Egypt is a world-renowned coral reef system supporting a brilliant cornucopia of marine life. These reefs, especially those in the Northern Red Sea in Egypt are particularly unique, having been identified as some of the most climate-tolerant in the world (as identified by the 50 Reefs scientific study among others). Scientists believe that the Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea still has the potential to survive the currently projected ocean temperature rising and could be the key to repopulating surrounding reefs, with the possibility of eventually pulling corals from the edge of near-extinction. Currently, about 50% of the reefs of Egypt’s Great Fringing Reef live within marine protected areas, but Richard Vevers, CEO of The Ocean Agency and Dr. Mahmoud Hanafy, Chief Scientist of Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) are hoping to see the Egyptian government commit to protecting the remaining half of reefs as the country hosts COP27, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el Sheikh next week.
Mission Blue, international marine conservation nonprofit, has declared the Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea a Hope Spot in support of full protection of the Great Fringing Reef and of HEPCA’s and The Ocean Agency’s ongoing efforts to conserve the coral reefs and the other marine life that live in Egypt’s vibrant waters.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue says, “Congratulations to Hope Spot Champions Richard Vevers and Dr. Mahmoud Hanafy on the launch of the the Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea Hope Spot! These are no ordinary reefs. They’ve been identified as one of the most climate-tolerant reefs in the world by the 50 Reefs and other scientific studies. As such, these reefs provide a vibrant symbol of hope for not just saving coral reefs but for biodiversity as a whole.”
“These super reefs on the doorstep of the UN Climate Conference (COP27), with their high climate tolerance, are the ultimate symbol of hope for saving coral reefs. We are hoping they will be the inspiration for both the climate action and marine protection necessary to save coral reefs as an ecosystem, and the hundreds of thousands of species they support,” explains Vevers. Services provided by these reefs do not only support the Egyptian national economy but also support the European economy as a base for biodiversity-based tourism. He explains, “Due to the global value of the Great Fringing Reef as a coral refuge, protection could be a global task.”
Boasting more than 2000km in length, the Great Fringing Reef runs along the shoreline of the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez, the shoreline of the mainland of the Red Sea Governorate and surrounding fringing reefs of nearly 44 islands. Approximately 50% of the fringing reef of Egypt is located with the boundary of declared protected areas (Abu-Gallum, Nabq and Ras Mohamed on the Gulf of Aqaba, Northern Islands, Wadi Gimal and Gabal Alba Protected areas on the coast of the Red Sea).
The Ocean Agency and HEPCA are working to create support for increased research, monitoring and local action to protect the Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea from unsustainable and over-use of biodiversity (overfishing and tourism), and pollution. Their activities include reducing anchor damage by installing new boat moorings throughout the Hope Spot area, reducing pollution entering the Hope Spot and raising awareness through solid waste collection and recycling and community cleanups. On the horizon is the expansion of their coral reef restoration program in the area and restore selective exploited species due to overfishing, including clams (Tridacna species) and commercial species of sea cucumber as well as a turtle research program.
“The Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea is highly accessible from the middle east and Europe and if protected, can continue to provide economic opportunities for the area through ecotourism,” explained Vevers. HEPCA is currently working on a conservation training program for SCUBA diving instructors.
“Coral reefs are on the frontline of the triple planet threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution,” explains Dr. Hanafy. “In fact, they are the most vulnerable ecosystem of them all, which is ironic as they are also the most biodiverse and valuable of them all. We’ve already lost 50% of coral reefs and scientists predict we will lose 70-90% of the remaining reefs even if we manage to achieve the Paris Agreement target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius – if ever there was a need for hope in ocean conservation this is it.”
The Great Fringing Reef of the Red Sea could be one of the last refuges for coral reefs worldwide shining as a glimmer of hope for future reef recovery. Dr. Hanafy concludes, “If we can save these reefs then there is some hope that we can still prevent a biodiversity crisis – not just in the ocean, but for the planet as a whole.”
About The Ocean Agency
The Ocean Agency is a US nonprofit with a unique approach to ocean conservation – supporting and accelerating action through creative thinking and powerful collaboration. Their major successes include revealing the impact of climate change on coral reefs in the Netflix Original Documentary, Chasing Coral (winner of the 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Nature Documentary), pioneering virtual reality ocean exploration (by taking Google Street View underwater), and the Catlin Seaview Survey (the most comprehensive underwater record of coral reefs with over 1 million images captured and analyzed).
HEPCA (Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association) is an Egyptian non-governmental organization well recognized internationally. HEPCA was founded in 1992 by 12 representatives of the diving community in response to serious environmental threats affecting the Red Sea’s delicate and pristine ecosystems and was officially declared in 1995. Since our inception, HEPCA has been working towards the protection and preservation of the natural resources of the Red Sea, sustainable uses and supporting the community as one of the most important key players in the conservation process. During three decades, HEPCA’s strategic mandatory vision is focusing on preserving and protecting Red Sea environment in general, and marine sensitive ecosystems in particular through initiating and implementing several projects including: 1) Initiating and maintaining mooring installation system for the pleasure boats to avoid anchoring on coral reefs (almost 1400 installations, largest mooring installation for diving boats worldwide); 2) Monitoring of key species and coral reefs; 3) Strengthening law enforcement, 3) Support plans for sustainable biodiversity-based tourism; 4) Community development and raise their ownership as active partner in the conservation process; 5) Managing of solid waste in the major cities of the Red Sea Governorate, 6) Raise the environmental awareness; 7) Support research on the living resources of the Red Sea and sustainable uses to raise the national research capacity in the field of marine biology, climate change and environmental conservation (sponsored 15 MSc and Ph.D programs).