Environmental concerns are something we are all quite familiar with these days, 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, which is home to over 200 recorded species of hard corals, 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 found here are diverse and hardy, they have adapted to live in the Red 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 healthy reef systems while visiting.
- Take only photos leave only bubbles’ divers and snorkelers should avoid touching or walking on corals, or collecting corals or shells as keepsakes. Corals are living organisms made up of tiny polyps which in their process of life deposit calcium which forms the hard coral skeleton, the living polyps give the corals their colors. Touching corals can pass bacteria to them which in turn can kill off the polyps so the corals die, it can also break the structures, which grow very slowly (from 0.5 to 5 cm per year on average depending on the species). Many corals also contain toxins which can cause a painful wound or rash when touched. It is recommended that divers do not wear gloves when diving on the coral reefs, this removes the temptation to touch.
- Avoid feeding the fish, feeding fish can cause imbalances in the food chain, and in some cases can cause an association of divers/snorkelers/boats with food. The food that we might give is not the natural food sauce of the animals, this can also cause health problems for the animals.
- Boats should use the permanent moorings that are installed as opposed to throwing anchors, anchors can destroy large amounts of coral each time. In the Red Sea there are fixed moorings at most dives sites which are installed an maintained by HEPCA Hurghada environmental protection agency) and other associations.
- Do not throw 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 rubbish in the water if possible collect it, much of the waste that we produce unfortunately ends up in the sea, many things can be mistaken as food and consumed by animals, or cause animals to become tangled 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 bleachwatch project. Corals can experience ‘bleaching’ when great temperature changes occur or if they are subjected to other stresses such as pollution, in some cases they will recover naturally, and in other times this can turn into a mass problem effecting large areas of reef. The corals in the Red Sea are not generally effected as much as coral reef in other parts of the world, as they are subject to greater temperature changes naturally throughout the year they are more adapt at dealing with this. The aim of the bleachwatch project is to monitor corals in an ongoing project with the aim to catch and signs of bleaching early and determine the reasons and if possible (eg. when bleaching may be related to a particular pollution source) take action, read more here:
Crown of thorns are a large starfish which feed on coral, they are naturally present in the Red Sea and part of the system, however for unknown reasons there are sometimes outbreaks of these animals, and in large numbers they can create devastation on a reef. If it is noted on any site that Crown of Thorns are becoming a problem because there numbers start to exceed the amounts that the reef can support then the data is reported to HEPCA and action which involves collecting them is initiated. If you come across a crown of thorns on a dive you should not do anything, their spikes contain a toxin which is released if touched, and if you try to injure/kill them it is more likely that you will just release eggs, which enhances the problem, this is the reason that special dives to clean them up are planned where participants are equipped with tools to remove them from the reef without harm to themselves. Read more here: http://www.hepca.com/conservation/projects/cot-outbreak