JEDDAH: IBRAHIM NAFFEE
Friday 5 October 2012
Last Update 5 October 2012 1:36 am
Pollution in the Red Sea has reached epic proportions. Coral reefs spanning thousands of kilometers along the coastline in the region are under threat of extinction, according to a statement issued by the regional organization for marine ecology protection in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Eden.
“Even though Red Sea is said to enjoy one of the safest environment in the world, it has recently come under severe pressure due to illegal fishing, the depositing of untreated sewage, the shipping of waste including toxic substances and increased shipping activities carrying chemicals and crude oil,” according to a statement of the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
“The entire expanse of sea lying between Jeddah and Qunfudha is polluted and has resulted in the depletion of the fish resources and the total disappearance of tuna fish. Reckless fishing damages the fish-breeding environment,” says Abdullah Al-Sayed, a prominent fisherman in Jeddah.
He added that sewage-pumping is another major factor that has led to the destruction of habitats of fish and other sea organisms. Even locations away from coastal areas are not free from the ravages caused by coastal pollutants. “Undersea currents and wind carrying coastal pollutants to distant parts of the sea include locations where various types of fish grow in large numbers,” Al-Sayed told Arab News.
The Red Sea, home to 662 varieties of coral, has the largest variety of coral in the north of the Indian Ocean. Coral in the region grows at the rate of between five millimeters and 25 millimeters annually.
Coral reefs contribute directly or indirectly to the economies of the countries to which they belong. While 12 percent of world's fish production depends on coral, their formation also serves as a major tourist attraction. The reef also plays a major role in protecting coastlines because they serve as a natural shield against strong waves swallowing the beaches.
The regional organization has recently celebrated a coral day in the Red Sea rim countries under the theme “Coral Reef First."
The secretary-general of the organization, Ziyad Abu Gharara, said that coral day was celebrated with the aim of underscoring the importance of conserving coral for the growth of natural resources and as a means of sustained economic and environmental development.
“The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are a vital link between oceans and continents. They are also important insofar as there are marine beings and coral reef that are not found in other parts of the world. In addition, they are a symbol of geological wealth and cultural heritage.”
He added that the celebration also aims to heighten awareness among users of coral and decision makers in countries that have a share in the sea.
Muhammad Ibrahim, a diving tourism guide in Jeddah, said various kinds of waste has damaged coral and frightened away fish. Empty bottles, for instance, are often found accumulated near coral.
An insufficient number of workers in the field of environmental conservation and a lack of research studies are some of the obstacles to organizing environment protection programs and planning environment policies in many countries.
In a related development, Saudi Aramco and the King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals are conducting a joint study on the impact of oil tankers and other ships on marine life in the Gulf. Aramco is also collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture to draw up a strategy for the protection of locations where fish live in large numbers in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.
Muhammad Al-Aziz, director general of the Administration for the Environmental Protection of Aquatic life at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the ministry has laid down regulations to stop illegal fishing in the Kingdom’s waters. Violation of regulations is punishable by up to SR 10,000 in fines, jail time for repeated violations and a cancellation of fishing registration.
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