Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Conservation: A Summary

 Summary Fact Sheet

United Nations Environment Programme; World Conservation Monitoring Centre, definition of biodiversity:

I. What is the issue?

  • Threats to marine life in the Persian Gulf; declining shark populations due to over fishing practices
  • Need to protect and ensure the conservation of the marine environment; whale sharks aggregating near to oil rigs off of Qatar- investment in scientific studies, but need to ensure damaged limitation from pollution from the rigs.
  • Degradation of coral reefs from heavy collecting and other recreational and tourism issues is becoming widespread, particularly in the Red Sea’. Coral reefs are essential for biodiversity, protection from storms to coastal areas, tourism- Marine Series 11- Arabian Seas- Anthony W.Chiffins
  • Ecological problems from the loss and degradation of productive coastal habitats caused by coastal landfill, dredging and sedimentation. - Marine Series 11- Arabian Seas- Anthony W.Chiffins
  • Vulnerability of the Red Sea from human activities; ‘the red sea has a number of unique features. It is the warmest and most saline of the world’s seas’. Marine Series 11- Arabian Seas- Anthony W.Chiffins
  • Limited coral communities in the Arabian Gulf, need to protect those present-‘ In the Gulf, fewer coral communities exist: only five recorded from Bahrain. Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have 30 species or less. Despite this, coral cover is high. The richest reefs known surround the Saudi Arabian coral cays’. Marine Series 11- Arabian Seas- Anthony W.Chiffins
  • Risk to ecosystems and turtle nesting grounds. Ecosystems that have previously been undisturbed but due to oil extraction, shipping lanes and onshore development are being affected. Turtles that once nested along the beaches of Abu Ali coast have not nested there for nearly five decades. .‘Island Biodiversity in the Western Arabian Gulf’

  • Risk posed by extraction from the marine environment; only seeing oil wealth, over looking the importance of marine biodiversity such as coral reefs, reef flats, islands, seagrass flats (that provide habitat and food to many marine life forms). Risk to islands where bird colonies nest and breed; washed up waste on shorelines; such as asphyxiation from the waste debris.
  • Impact of coastline urban development; environmental degradation, industrial development, tourism
  • Shipping and fishing; risks to reefs from anchors and nets dropped on reefs, lines entangling fish populations. Need to ensure proper buoy lines are in place and used.
  • Oils spill risks to ecosystems and food chains- ‘sixty percent of the world’s exported oil is transported through the strait of Hormuz alone..the UAE occupies a strategic location along southern approaches to the strait of Hormuz’. P5-
  • Ensuring commitment to Marine Spatial Planning; involve multi sector alliances; industry, Government and NGOs
  • Disposal of brine for desalination plants and its impact on fisheries
  • Risk of red tide; harmful algal blooms that affect public health, fisheries and tourism
  • Ensuring ecosystem-based management; to exploit natural resources through balancing ‘ the social and economic needs of the human communities with the maintenance of healthy ecosystems’.
  • Threats to the richness and uniqueness of Venezuela’s biodiversity
  • Appropriate waste management; large quantities of plastic debris in the sea that impact on turtle nesting grounds, asphyxiate marine animals and damage coral reefs.

II. What are the impacts and effects of the occurrence  (on human health, livelihoods, natural resources and systems, including soils and water)?

1. Natural resources

Persian Gulf

United Nations University report on ‘ managing the growing impacts of development on fragile coastal and marine ecosystems: lesson from the gulf’. Looking at the impacts of coastal development on the ecosystems, changing coastal populations, oil pollution, mitigating the impacts of climate change, improving regulation of coastal development.

 Conservation of Iranian wetlands report 2012- 8 year funded project that has secured financial and political commitments from the Iranian Government.

Maersk oil case study on ‘promoting the conservation of marine ecology by monitoring whale sharks and biodiversity in the Arabian gulf’. The area is a mecca for whale shark aggregations, so it is vital to ensure pollution from the rigs does not affect these waters.

Partnerships in the oil and gas industry- report covers a case study on environmental preservation in the Arabian Gulf.

Whale shark aggregations and biodiversity in the Arabian Gulf- sightings around oil platforms

Marine series 11- Arabian seas- Anthony W Chiffins. Report on the impacts in the Arabian Gulf of oil exploration, phosphate mining, and industrial inputs – ‘In some Gulf States (for example, Saudi Arabia), 40 percent of the coastline has now been developed, and a significant proportion of the shoreline of countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain is arti-ficial. Loss of habitat extends to other parts of the region and to the wider Indian Ocean where approximately 50 percent of man-grove forests may have been lost over the last 20 years (IUCN/UNEP 1985c). O verfishing is a major concern in all areas of the region.’

‘Island Biodiversity in the Western Arabian Gulf’- 44 page report on the ecosystems of the area. ‘Because the islands have not been disturbed, the island ecosystems still maintain very large breeding aggregations..these islands are now surrounded by development for oil extraction, shipping lanes, and near shore recreational activity as well as onshore development..marine turtles used to nest along the mainland because beaches of Abu Ali but nesting has not been recorded there for nearly five decades’.

Dumping of brine from desalination plants into the Arabian Gulf- increases the water temperature and threats to marine ecosystems. ‘ More then 12 million cubic metres of sea water, equivalent to 4,800 Olympic swimming pools are desalinated daily.’ This includes 21,900kg of chlorine discharges daily into the Gulf, 300kg discharges of copper discharges daily.

Impact of rapid and extensive coastal development; industrialisation, tourism- damage to corals through suffocation as a result of sedimentation being dumped on them from development projects.

2. Livelihoods

Al Jazeera feature on shark finning and dwindling shark numbers in the Arabian Sea- the area provides 10% of shark fins to the Asian shark fin soup market.

Al Jazeera feature on the Sharks of Kuwait-

 The Shark Trade of the Arabian Sea’- a photo stream highlighting the impact of the vast trade in shark finning and sale of meat. 18 photos show the impact that this is having on already declining populations as well as the threat to other marine life being entangled in the fishing nets.-

Red tide- algae forms killing fish stocks, affecting tourism due to washed up dead fish stocks on beaches. ‘.about 70 tons of fish killed on Asmak fish farm, Quriyat, Oman during 2008 red tide’. Impacts on industry outputs with ‘seawater desalination plants and power plants and other plants that use seawater for cooling purposes were forced to close during the last red tide in the Arabian Gulf region’. Affects humans living in coastal areas; coughing and wheezing.

Tourist industries and hotels- Impact of Red tide in UAE- ‘ In early 2009, hotels, diving centres and beaches were hit by red tide along the east coast of the UAE, resulting in significant losses in revenue. The lack of oxygen in the affected waters resulted in the suffocation of hundreds of tons of fish. Coral reefs, the habitat of reef sharks, sea turtles and tropical fish, had been devastated by the algae, attacking tiny organisms on which the reef survives. Algae contaminated water was visible from the corniche in front of the Atlantis hotel at the Palm Jumeirah. The bloom caused problems for the hotel’s expansive aquarium and water-park facilities, as the algae had infiltrated seawater intake mechanisms’. Pg8-

3. Human Health

Red tide- build up of algae that affects coastal populations; coughing and wheezing/. Needs to be continued research on the impact that this has on human health,

Red tide-

Harmful Algal Bloom or Red tide; a new threat to water resources in the Arabian Gulf Region

Red rides in Iran 2009-

Red tides impact on humans and animals-

Red tide rising; a investigation of recent increased harmful algal blooms in the United Arab Emirates. ‘The recent exponential growth of the UAE in terms of both population and urban development my be a contributing factor in the increasing intensity of red tide in the UAE.’ Negative impact on human health; cost to provide treatment and

III.  What are the responses/ options? Case Studies

WWF report on the Conservation of coral reefs in the Arabian/ Persian Gulf

Marine planning tools- Marine Spatial Planning; how to look at specific areas and the ways that this tool can be used to limit the impact on species and enable cross-alliance of users. MSP ‘is a coordinated approach to designating where human activities can occur in the ocean to minimize conflicts among stakeholders, maximize the benefits that people receive from the ocean, and help maintain healthy marine habitats’.


Marine planning; practical approaches to ocean and coastal decision-making- balancing oil development with biodiversity protection, science-based conservation priorities, environmental standards and practices for oil and gas lesse

Venezuela Energy development

Assessing Biodiversity-

Assessing energy development-

Planning for multiple objectives-

Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning

Biodiversity conservation-

Development of remote sensors and software to monitor water quality. ‘In the emirate of Fujairah, environmental authorities have installed artificial reefs off the coast of Fujairah with the hope of replenishing the marine environment on the east coast which has suffered from the devastating effects of red tide..The proliferation of HABs has affected the entire Arabian Gulf Region’. Pg9 -

Establishment of ROPME (Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment). Established  in 1978, action for the protection and development of the marine environment and coastal areas; Bahrain, I.R. Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Member states-

Legal instruments-

MEMAC (Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre) objectives-

Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network (EBM); source of information on coastal and marine planning and management tools. The mission of the Network is to promote healthy coastal and marine ecosystems and communities through the use of tools that help incorporate ecosystem considerations into management.

IV. Good practice in addressing the issue: guidelines and examples

 Maersk oil and whale shark conservation in the Arabian Gulf-

 The Qatar Whale Shark Project-

 Spatial Planning Development Programme for Marine Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture- a paper taken from the Regional Commission for Fisheries meeting in Tehran on 14-16 May 2013.

The paper provides a summary of ‘the joint RECOFI Working Group on Aquaculture (WGA) and Working Group on Fisheries Management (WGFM) Technical Workshop on ‘spatial planning development programme for Marine Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture. A regional development programme to allow for spatially-based planning and management of marine capture fishery activities and aquaculture in the RECOFI Region is proposed along with a budget estimate for its implementation.’

The report looks at using Marine Spatial Planning..’ to best promote fisheries and aquaculture management’, capacity building and instigating pilot projects.

ROPME-oceanographic cruises- periodical assessment of the state of the marine environment in the whole ROPME area, under the Kuwait convention.

International conference on environmental challenges in the ROPME Sea Area, Kish Island Iran, 3-6 March 2013-


Establishing marine protected areas in the Arabian Gulf-

Extractive Industries & sustainable development – A best practice guide for offshore oil and gas development in the West African Marine Ecoregion by Sandra Kloff, Clive Wicks and Paul Siegel  ( ) see on this website Extractive Industries & Sustainable Development-Best Practice Guide to Offshore Extraction in West Africa-S.Kloff C.Wicks P.Siegal

Venezuela ends commercial shark finning and creates a protected area through out the Caribbean Sea including Los Roques and Las Aves archipelagos

Press photos; the Los Roques Archipelago-

The law of coastal zones (2001) Venezuela, introduced to ensure conservation and regulated use of the coastal zone.-

‘Developing Management strategies for coastal pubic domain in Venezuela from local delimitation to national implementation’- ‘ In Venezuela, coastal public domain is legally considered in the Law of Coastal Zones as an area to be delimited for conservation and public use purposes. The boundary of coastal zone has not been defined, resulting in the inappropriate use of ecosystems and natural resources through incompatible development with planning proposals.’pg 1

 National policies in the Coastal Zones of Venezuela: A Participation Strategy

National work plan to monitor the red tide phenomenon in UAE-

Procedures taken by the Ministry of UAE- monitoring and evaluating results of analysis, ensuring public health protection, regulating safety; shell fish, collecting water samples to monitor risk, use satellite imagery to monitor data,

Developing eco tourism opportunities-

7 key aspects of eco tourism- ‘travel to natural destinations, minimizes impact, build environmental awareness, provides direct financial benefits for conservation, provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people, respects local culture, supports human rights and democratic movements’- form of tourism- c

Developing artificial reefs to foster marine life-

V. Relevant images (videos, photos, etc)

 Persian Gulf

‘Ocean wanderers’ is a documentary about whale sharks aggregations in the Al Shaheen Oil Field, 80 km off of Qatar. The project was founded by the Qatar Ministry of Environment and a Heriot-Watt PHD University student. Mearsk became a partner in 2012 and have provided financial support and resources in the form of use of their reach and technology division for the study. More then 150 whale sharks have been spotted in the summer months feeing on plankton and fish eggs. Surveys began in 2011 and are on-going

 Al Jazeera feature on shark finning and dwindling shark numbers in the Arabian Sea- the area provides 10% of the fins to the Asian shark fin soup market

Al Jazeera feature on the Sharks of Kuwait-  ‘The Shark Trade of the Arabian Sea’- a photostream highlighting the impact of the vast trade in shark fins and meat. 18 photos show the impact that this is having on already declining populations as well as the threat to other marine life being entangled in the fishermens nets.-


The impacts of the red tide phenomena in the state- foul odours, mass fish stocks depleted, fishing industries affected. ‘Other risk of red tide phenomena is the regression of seawater’s quality in the areas where phenomena took place’-

VI. Reference resources (websites, DVDs, PDF docs, video clips, etc)

 Persian Gulf oil and gas exports fact sheet-

Report on whale sharks aggregation around offshore platforms in the Qatari waters of the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

Persian Gulf

Background of the Red tide phenomenon


Regional assessment conservation targets

The Middle Eastern Biodiversity Network; Generating and sharing knowledge for ecosystem management and conservation

Marine Biodiversity in Venezuela: status and perspectives

Report on the -Biodiversity and Conservation of the Marine and Marine Ecosystems of the Venezuelan Orinoco Delta

IUCN- Sustainable tourism and natural World Heritage report-

Ecotourism in Venezuela blog spot-

Venezuelan Government- Environment-

Venezuela’s Ministry of environment (The Ministry of People’s Power for the Environment) - ‘responsible for the planning, administration and allocation of natural resources and the promotion, defense and improvement of the environment in Venezuela. It is the ministry’s job to supervise the conservation of the country’s fauna, vegetation, water resources, soils and atmosphere’-

EC Venezuela country strategy paper 2007-2013

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