JANUARY 2011: My Surface Interval named one of the best scuba diving blogs

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nine new dive sites for Red Sea

So, the end of the year was not a happy one for parts of the Red Sea and our thoughts remain with the families of those injured and killed in the shark attacks.
Sadly, it would appear that sharks are now fair game in the region.
Despite calls for there not to be a cull, a number have been plucked from the waters.
However, the authorities are claiming there is no licence to kill - it's just unfortunate a number of sharks have died after being caught. Oh, that's okay then.
But on to some other Red Sea news........

Nine new dive sites are to be opened in the Ras Mohammed national park to ease the pressure on local dive sites that are being deluged by divers.
But it could mean the closure of popular easy sites such as Ras Katy and Near Garden. For many new divers to the Red Sea, these two sites may have been their first sight of the wonders of the Red Sea.
But it also means that they are suffering from overuse.
As the port of Sharm El Sheikh has grown into a major tourist destination, making it easier than ever for divers to experience the delights, it also threatens to be its downfall.
However, such a spectacular growth also carries sensitive environmental challenges.
It is an unpalatable fact that the biggest threat to the area is the very group who love it so much. Yep, that’s us divers.

Experienced Red Sea guide and Instructor Francesco Germi said more thought needed to be put into how the environment was used.
It is clear that natural resources are finite and cannot resist unlimited use.
He argued that there is a limit – a ‘carrying capacity’ for human use – which has to be embraced to ensure that natural resources are not destroyed.
In an article in Blue magazine, he wrote: “Many observers and industry experts already point to the deterioration of the environment in South Sinai, and in particular the coral reef system and marine life, as the single largest threat to the long run growth of tourism.
“The marine ecosystems have a limited carrying capacity, and there are indications that this carrying capacity has been exceeded, exhibited by a deterioration and loss of coral habitat due to: (1) marine pollution from raw sewage discharge from boats; (2) coastal development and construction; and (3) tourist related activities themselves (diving, snorkelling and boating).
“How much each is a contributing factor is not clear, nor is the degree of deterioration over time.”
With tourism representing Egypt’s biggest earner, he said it it would be prudent to make every effort to mitigate the causes of coral reef deterioration,
in other words to protect ‘the goose that lays the golden egg’.
Coral reefs are not able to support an indefinite amount of recreational use.
The damage inflicted by divers or snorkelers consists mostly of breaking fragile, branched corals or causing lesions to massive corals.
He wrote: “Research indicates that reef communities can tolerate a certain level of degradation before irreversible changes in ecological structure occur.
“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommends a sustainable carrying capacity of 5,000 to 6,000 dives per site per year as a general principle. However, recent research by the National Parks of Egypt showed that some sites in the Sharm el Sheikh area were receiving up to 60,000 dives per year, with an
average of 15,000 dives per year across all sites in the area.
“In order to address this bottleneck, a realistic strategy is needed to plan the development and management of recreational reef use. It is clear that the current number of divers and snorkelers per site cannot be increased without incurring ecological degradation.”

Maybe the only answer is to see the rotating closure of popular dive sites to help relieve the pressure on them and that is something we as divers should encourage if we want this wonderful natural resource to remain.
Which brings us back to the new dive sites.
Francesco was involved in the three day survey in a stretch of coast between the Travco marina and Marsa Ghozlani. The sites are perfect for training or introductory dives with sandy bottoms peppered with coral pinnacles.
And the team recorded a wealth of marine life, including eagle rays, morays, blue-spotted stingrays and barracuda.
So if in the future your favourite dive sites are closed, don’t moan. It is for all of our goods in the future.

1 comment:

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