These days environmental concerns are something we are all quite familiar with and a lot of attention is being focused into how individuals can minimize their impact on the world around us in order to preserve it for future generations.
The Red Sea is a rich coral sea, home to over 200 recorded species of hard corals and over 1200 species of fish, 10% of which are endemic to the Red Sea, and of course many marine mammals. This is of one of the main reasons why so many people visit the Red Sea: to admire its astounding beauty.
The Red Sea is especially interesting, as the corals here are diverse and hardy: they have adapted to live in this sea where temperatures have a range of about 10°C (from 20°C – 30°C) over the year.
In order to minimize our impact on the environment we can follow some simple procedures to help maintain a healthy reef system:
- “Take only photos, leave only bubbles”: divers and snorkelers should avoid touching or walking or collecting corals and shells. Corals are living organisms made of tiny polyps which, during their life, deposit calcium that forms the hard coral skeleton. The living polyps give the corals their colors and touching corals can pass bacteria to them or break their structure that grows very slowly (from 0.5 to 5 cm per year on average). Many corals also contain toxins which can cause a painful wound or rash when touched. It is very recommended that divers do not wear gloves when diving on the coral reefs so that the temptation of touching is lowered;
- Avoid feeding the fish: feeding fish can cause imbalances in the food chain since it is not their natural food and can cause health problems. In some cases, can cause an association of divers and boats with food;
- Boats should use the permanent moorings that are installed instead of throwing the anchor, which can destroy large amounts of coral each time. In most of the dive sites in the Red Sea there are fixed moorings installed and maintained by HEPCA (Hurghada Environmental Protection Agency) and other associations;
- Do not leave rubbish: if the area you are visiting does not have waste disposal facilities, then take any rubbish away with you where it can be disposed of properly;
- If you see trash in the water collect it, if possible. Much of the waste that we produce unfortunately ends up in the sea and many things can be mistaken as food and consumed by animals, or cause animals to tangled themselves and eventually die. When collecting any rubbish be sure to check that it has not become encrusted in coral or have anything living in it, if it does it may be better to leave it in place.
Throughout the year TGI organizes clean-up days, these are arranged to mark Earth day and International Beach Clean Up day. In addition we monitor our dive sites and regularly collect rubbish if needed. On clean up days all our guest are invited to participate. PADI’s project AWARE foundation provides lots more interesting information and collects data on rubbish collected, read more on: www.projectaware.org
A new and interesting project from HEPCA to gain data on the Turtles in the Red Sea. Throughout our regular activities, when we spot turtles we record data about where and when, as well as which species of turtle and size, and what it was doing (ie. feeding, swimming, mating), if possible a photo is taken and at the end of each month we submit our data on sightings to HEPCA who are creating a database with the information received from around the Red Sea. You can find out more and participate at our dive centers in El Gouna and Marsa Alam, if you have photos you would like to share you can pass these on as well! Read more about this project here:
From the beginning of 2012 we will be participating in HEPCA’s Bleach Watch project. Corals can experience ‘bleaching’ when great temperature changes occur or if they are subjected to other adversities such as pollution. In some cases they will recover naturally but other times this can turn into a mass problem, affecting large areas of the reef. The corals in the Red Sea are not generally affected as much as coral reefs in other parts of the world, as they are normally subjected to greater temperature changes throughout the year. The aim of the bleachwatch project is to monitor corals, to catch any sign of bleaching early, determine the reason and if possible take action (ie.: when bleaching may be related to a particular pollution source). Read more here:
Crown of Thorns is a large starfish that feeds on corals. They are inhabitants of the Red Sea and naturally part of the system, however for unknown reasons there are some outbreaks, their numbers start to exceed and it can happen that they create devastation. If it is noted on any site that Crown of Thorns are becoming a problem to the reef, the data is reported to HEPCA who immediately takes action. If you come across a Crown of Thorns on a dive you should not do anything: their spikes are toxic and if you try to injure/kill them it is more likely that you will just release the eggs, which enhances the problem. This is the reason why these special dives are planned, to clean them up with professional tools the don’t harm the dive nor the animal. Read more here: http://www.hepca.com/conservation/projects/cot-outbreak