Plate 11.1 Al Uqair: A site of significant natural and cultural heritage. 338 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

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1 Plate 11.1 Al Uqair: A site of significant natural and cultural heritage. 338 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

2 Conservation of Natural Coastal and Marine Resources Khaled Ronald A. A. Al-Abdulkader Loughland and and Khaled Ronald Al-Abdulkader A. Loughland Environmental Protection Department, Saudi Aramco Alexander Wyllie Exploration Saudi Operations, Aramco Saudi Aramco

3 Change along the coastline over time Plate 11.2 Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) a fish preying species that once nested along the coast and is now restricted to remote areas. Introduction This Chapter identifies changes in the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Arabian Gulf over the last 70 years and highlights those remaining valuable natural habitats and environmental assets. This Chapter also provides a summary of the findings of the various disciplines covered in the Atlas and recommends actions to protect and rehabilitate the environment for the benefit of the community and the Nation. The human population of the Saudi Arabian Gulf Coastline has expanded exponentially mostly as a result of hydrocarbon development in the Eastern Province. Residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial land use has thrived in a phase of economic development unknown in the history of Saudi Arabia and this growth is predicted to continue. Figure 11.1 illustrates the population expansion of Saudi Arabia. Figure 11.2 illustrates the population growth in the Eastern Province, where the population grew from a few hundred thousand in the 1970s approaching almost three million at the present time. The Saudi Arabian Gulf Coast has changed significantly during the last 50 years mostly as a result of the economic growth in the region. Historical maps have indicated that Dareen and Al Uqair were once significant ports on the Saudi Gulf coast facilitating international trade and shipping. The export of hydrocarbons could now also be viewed as a natural extension of the trade that has taken place from the area for centuries. Today the new ports of Dammam and Jubail facilitate most of the commercial trade to and from the East of the Kingdom. Development to meet increasing demands for residential and industrial expansion in the coastal zone is plainly illustrated throughout the region. Recent changes in coastal geomorphology adjacent to highly developed coastal areas such as Dammam and Al-Khobar, Tarut Bay and Jubail are local examples of this development. Industry also places an enormous demand on the coastal zone for transport, ground water extraction, power generation, desalinization, sewage and waste disposal. Agriculture in the coastal zone (e.g. Qatif Oasis) has an indirect nutrient enrichment affect on the quality and productivity of marine waters such as those in Tarut Bay. Map 11.1 illustrates the development of the landscape in 2010 obtained from satellite imagery Figure 11.1 Population trend for Saudi Arabia. (Source: Modified from Lahmeyer, 2006) Figure 11.2 Dammam regional population growth from 1930 until Source: Brinkhoff and Thomas, Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 341

4 Tarut Bay and Dammam Area Changes Since 1955 Landfill Marine Kilometers Map 11.1 Changes in the coastline from 1955 until Parallel to the development of the region was the development of remote sensing technology, which has allowed for a simultaneous documentation of the impact of development on the coastal zone. This has provided a unique opportunity to document the changes from a relatively pristine coastline to a highly developed coastal zone. Data presented in this Chapter illustrates changes in the coastal zone over time. The population of the Dammam Area had a rapid increase from the 1970s (Figure 11.2). Analysis of aerial photography and satellite imagery illustrate the associated changes with the population increase along the coastline. 342 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

5 a b Map 11.2 (a and b) Changes in land use and coastline for Tarut Bay from 1967 until The dramatic changes along the coast are clearly illustrated in Maps 11.1, 11.2 and 11.3 where land use and the actual coastline have been extensively modified. Figures 11.3, 11.4 and 11.5 show the expansion of this development. Whilst some agriculture has been lost the most significant loss has been natural coastal habitats. Map 11.3 Progressive coastal change on and around Tarut Island since Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 343

6 Figure 11.3 Development and agriculture changes in Tarut Bay and the Dammam Area (Ha). Figure 11.4 Graphical representation of coastal change over the Dammam Area (Ha). Figure 11.5 Graphical representation of coastal change in Tarut Bay (Ha). Tarut Bay is adjacent to the ancient Qatif Oasis, a natural fossil groundwater aquifer close to the surface which appears as a number of surface water pools, springs and small lakes. Basson et al., (1977) recognized that the high productivity of Tarut Bay was attributed to the influence of agricultural activity in the Qatif Oasis. The abundance of fish could be implied by the number of traditional fish traps (297) in the 1967 Corona satellite imagery. During this period there were still many hectares of healthy mangrove habitats ideal as a protective nursery for many species of fish and crustaceans. The development of the Oasis into a highly productive agricultural area to supply the needs of the growing population in the period resulted in the use of chemical fertilizers; altered irrigation methods; and wetland drainage. It is estimated that some 485 Ha of mangrove have been lost and that 3,810 Ha of landfill development has encroached into the marine environment of Tarut Bay. In early 2011 the estimate of mangroves within this area was 325 Ha of varying density. This number included newly established mangrove plantation sites whose coverage is still overall very small. Plate 11.3 shows the view of the shoreline and the associated mangroves. Plate 11.3 Remnant mangrove forest in Tarut Bay. 344 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

7 Status of the Coastal and Marine Environment Commencing in the north, the coastline is relatively undeveloped and contains interesting features such as mangrove and salt marsh habitats, coastal sand dunes, rocky shorelines, cliff formations and tidal creeks (Khores), with Al Khafji Creek being the largest of the tidal khores along the coast. Within Khore Al Khafji there are mangrove (around 2.5 Ha) and salt marsh habitats. The Al Khafji Creek is fringed with oil industry facilities and industrial complexes and this supports growth in that general area with expanding populations and coastal related developments. The coastal areas of Ras Al Mishab, Safania, Tanajib, Manifa and Ras Az Zawr are still in good natural condition, and this region is regarded as a rich fishing area. Development activities including new ports, oil and gas installations and fertilizer industries are however encroaching on these natural coastal areas. The associated population growth and coastal development that will support this new industrial infrastructure will impact even further. Plate 11.4 Typical tidal creek (khore). Since the establishment of the Royal Commission in 1975 the Jubail Area has also experienced rapid coastal development. The population of Jubail has grown from 140,800 in 1992 to 337,800 in It is expected that this will continue as the area is further developed. Despite the rapid development there appears to still be areas of the coastal zone relatively untouched, with the embayment adjacent to Jubail having been largely unaffected to date by development (Map 11.4). The Saudi Wildlife Commission has proposed a large part of this embayment area as a protected area because seagrass, coral, mangrove, salt marsh and mud flat habitats are all represented in these areas. On the nearby inshore island of Gurmah there is a thriving mangrove community of approximately 63 ha (Plate 11.5). This mangrove community was severely polluted by oil in the 1991 Gulf War; however it has since recovered. a b Plate 11.5 Mangrove habitats on Gurmah Island near Jubail. Map 11.4 (a and b) Change in land use and coastline for Jubail from 1967 until 2010 Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 345

8 Plate 11.6 Remnant mangrove habitas in Tarut Bay. Note the landfilling activities in the background. Within Tarut Bay there are valuable coastal resources and Map 11.5 illustrates these habitats. This region is the major population center for the Eastern Province and as such offers unique opportunities for nature based recreation and tourism. The Saudi Wildlife Commission has identified Tarut Bay as a Resource Use Reserve (Map 11.5). This is equivalent to the IUCN classification for reserves as V Protected Landscape or Seascape and VI Managed Resource Reserve (Convention on Biodiversity, 2004; Sulayem and Joubert, 1994). The reserve category chosen is an attempt to protect the Bay s environmental values whilst continuing to encourage its traditional exploitation. It does not seek to prevent development, but to have it occur with environmental values included in the development plan. It allows the traditional uses of the landscape/seascape to continue whilst discouraging non compatible development. Conservation within Tarut Bay is urgently required because the Bay s remaining natural habitats are at risk from continued development. Map 11.6 indicates the location and density of remnant and planted mangrove within Tarut Bay. The Map indicates the state of the remaining mangrove habitats in the Bay, with those areas requiring immediate conservation indicated in red. 346 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

9 Plate 11.7 Migratory and resident birds depend on mangrove habitats for feeding and roosting. Further south, Half Moon Bay also known as Dawhat Zalum is a popular recreation site for the residents of Dammam and Al Khobar. Along the shore of the Bay there are numerous private and public beach facilities offering swimming, sailing and motor boat activities. The Bay is attractive for visitors because it has gentle shallow sloping beaches that provide safe swimming locations and visitor numbers peak during weekend periods. The shoreline of the Bay is coming under increasing pressure from rising visitor numbers and resort development as well as sprawling residential development extending from the Dammam-Al Khobar area. This will result in further impact on the shoreline and increased waste disposal into the confined embayment. Plate 11.8 Sand dunes of Half Moon Bay. Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 347

10 Large areas of the southern part of the coastline are relatively undeveloped and Map 11.7 indicates the development trend along the Eastern Province coastline. As a result extensive areas have been recommended as nature reserves by the Saudi Wildlife Commission (Map 11.8). There has been some development along the southern coast such as at Qurayyah consisting of salt water injection plants, power stations, desalination plants and recreation facilities. However, these facilities are relatively small in scale and scattered along the coast. These facilities mostly support existing infrastructure outside of the area. Al Uqair is a unique coastal area occurring on the Gulf of Salwa. The area has significant heritage sites of regional importance, consisting of an old trading port, customs house and fort. This port was once the major trading point from the Eastern Province to the then known World. In contrast to the high salinity of the Gulf of Salwa, the area contains fresh water springs with associated fresh water vegetation with fish inhabiting these areas. The area is also surrounded by sand dunes and date palms and has been recently proposed as a major tourist development site by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities. In keeping with the Commission s philosophy the area s cultural and natural heritage should also be conserved as part of this proposed development. On the far south coast, Ras Abu Qamees is the most isolated Gulf coastline of the Kingdom located between the United Arab Emirates and Qatar borders. This rocky headland is in pristine natural condition and contains rich intertidal coastal rocky habitats, a large breeding population of Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and threatened Sooty Falcons (Falco concolor) and significant numbers of vulnerable dugong (Dugong dugon). There has been little development along this coastline except on some offshore islands. There are no major coastal encroachments and it has been recommended by the Saudi Wildlife Commission that a conservation reserve be established to protect this unique coastline in its natural condition (Map 11.8). Plate 11.9 Osprey approaching its nest at Ras Abu Qamees. Marine Conservation Governance The Gulf coastline has some of the most unique and productive habitats in the region. The Kingdom has enacted appropriate legislation to protect these habitas including a coastal setback policy of 400 m (Royal Decree /1/1419H) for any new developments, and an approval process (Committee of Four - Royal Decree 982/M 15/9/1419H) for any projects (particularly land filling) in the coastal zone. This Committee of Four consists of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Coast Guard, The Presidency for Meteorology and Environment (PME), and the Ministry of Agriculture. This Committee is being considered for expansion to include other Government Stakeholders. The National Coastal Zone Management Plan (NCZMP) is based on work undertaken by the PME and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1987, where Coastal Zone Management Programs were produced for the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. The Saudi Wildlife Commission has created landmark documents such as the First Saudi Arabian National Report on the Convention of Biological Diversity. There have been a number of other Government initiatives to protect the environment with Saudi Arabia having completed a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for the Country. There are 10 separate legislative acts dealing with the protection of the environment (Abu Zinada et al., 2004). For example, the Fishing Exploitation and Protection of Live Aquatic Resources in the Territorial Waters of Saudi Arabia Act 1987, the Wildlife Protected Areas Act 1995, and the Environmental Code 2002 are all relevant to the marine environment. A Cabinet of Ministers Order (Order No /4/1423H) requires that all coral reefs in the Kingdom be protected and designated as marine protected areas. The Presidency for Meteorology and Environment (PME) has provided guidance for legislation. Key documents such as the General Environmental Law, with rules for implementation and environmental protection standards provide guidance on protecting the environment. The environmental law anticipates that the PME will liaise with other public authorities regarding the development and enforcement of environmental issues. In addition to National Legislation there is also Regional Protocols to protect the Gulf s marine resources and these were established by the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) of which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a member. These include Protocols concerning Regional Cooperation in Combating Pollution by Oil and Other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency (1978), Marine Pollution Resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of the Continental Shelf (1989), Protection of the Marine Environment against Pollution from Land-Based Sources (1990), Control of Marine Trans-boundary Movements and Disposal of Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes (1998), and Conservation of Biological Diversity and the Establishment of Protected Areas 348 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

11 Plate Ras Abu Qamees is one of the last wilderness coastal areas along the Gulf. This area still has a healthy population of osprey which indicates its pristine condition. Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 349

12 Conservation: The Way Forward The physical environment of the Gulf is unique as there are very few seas that are subjected to the same degree of temperature and salinity extremes. This has led to a distinctive evolution of species and ecosystems that tolerate these harsh environmental conditions. Therefore it is more imperative to protect these ecosystems from human related impacts, as they are already naturally stressed, and even small disturbances at critical times can push these ecosystems into decline. From a global perspective, the Gulf ecosystems are of interest because they are an indicator of how other marine ecosystems around the World may cope with increasing temperatures and aridity as a result of climate change. The coastal zone The coastal zone includes land areas influenced by the marine environment and are important because they provide a buffer between the sea and the terrestrial environment where storm surges and tidal variations are absorbed within a dynamic system of coastal dunes, beaches and supratidal areas. The coastal zone tends to be an area of activity for the Kingdom s population and as a result the area is under pressure from human activities both direct and indirect including development and alteration as well as waste disposal. Serious consideration should be given to preventing coastal development for industrial purposes, and instead, have this development moved inland. This would free up these productive and attractive coastal regions for conservation, recreation, managed tourism and residential land use. This would significantly enhance the quality of life for the residents of these areas. In its wisdom, the Kingdom has initiated a coastal setback policy with clear guidelines on development activities within the coastal zone. This policy was put into law in 1998 by a Royal Decree stating that a 400 m coastal setback be established for any new development along the shoreline. Coastal embayments Sensitive coastal embayments contain rich intertidal and subtidal habitats and are an important nursery ground for fisheries, and their protection is essential for fishing to continue as a viable industry in the Gulf. These embayments are mostly low energy shallow marine environments with low flushing rates and restricted circulation. These sensitive areas can be easily impacted by pollution or activities that occur within their waters, or on the nearby adjoining coastal lands. Any impact in these sensitive environments can be amplified due to their physical properties and can have long-term effects on water and sediment quality. These systems need to be protected from further development, particularly the development of large industrial operations on the coastline. Mangroves and salt marshes One of the most obvious and important ecosystems within the coastal zone are mangroves. These occur mostly within embayments that are now surrounded by major development. These mangrove ecosystems are therefore under even greater risk of impact. The last major stands of mangrove occur in the Tarut and Musalmiyah Embayments with the largest mangrove trees occurring on and around Tarut Island. These mangrove ecosystems have been subject to various impacts as a result of coastal development over the past 40 years, with the most serious being smothering by land filling. The loss of mangroves continues today and if the current rate continues then large stands of mangrove will cease to exist along the Gulf Coast of Saudi Arabia by the end of this decade. It is currently estimated that 90% of the original mangrove ecosystems along the Gulf Coast have been lost mostly as a result of coastal urban development. The current estimate (from satellites) of mangrove habitat within the Saudi Arabian Territories of the Gulf is 412 Ha, comprising 55 Ha of plantation. A strategy for the conservation of remnant mangroves and restoration through plantations is required and should include conserving associated habitats such as salt marsh, intertidal and subtidal habitats. Plate The Coastal zone of the eastern province contains diverse habitats that support the biodiversity of the region. Extensive low lying areas are frequently inundated with high tides and these same areas can often provide opportinities for the establishment of new mangrove habitats. 350 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 351

13 For example, Al Khafji Creek is in need of protection against landfill encroachment at the head of the Creek, and the plantation of additional mangroves would enhance the Creek s ecological value. The remnant mangrove habitats in Tarut Bay are in urgent need of protection and all mangrove habitats along the Gulf coast should be protected with a moratorium on all mangrove clearing or loss. Remnant mangrove ecosystems need to be formally protected within designated protected areas. Without this strategy there is a distinct possibility that mangroves would become locally extinct due to continuing development pressure. Because of the loss of mangrove habitats in the Eastern Province, there have been efforts to restore mangrove habitats along the Gulf Coast. For example, over the last few decades, Saudi Aramco in association with its partners such as King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, the Ministry of Agriculture, Saudi Commission for Wildlife Conservation and local schools has been planting mangrove in the Eastern Province. These efforts have been positive for developing awareness in the community on the importance of mangroves and the threats facing these habitats. However, aggressive mangrove conservation and rehabilitation programs now need to be conducted to safeguard the genetic diversity of the mangrove populations and sustain fisheries and bird populations. The restoration of mangroves needs to be undertaken on a large coordinated scale over an extended period and could also be supported by other industry and businesses in the region. For example, corporate sponsorship of mangrove ecosystems and plantations such as Adopt a mangrove ecosystem would safeguard the mangroves, and also promote the corporate social responsibility profile of the sponsor. Subtidal habitats The productivity of shallow water habitats is high both in summer and winter due to shallow waters receiving full sunlight and these areas support large meadows of seagrass and macro-algae. These primary producers are the fundamental drivers of the marine food chain in the Gulf. Seagrass habitats Plate are widespread within the low energy subtidal areas of the coast and unfortunately vast areas of subtidal habitat are destroyed each year through dredging and reclamation work. These plants are the direct food source for many species such as fish, green turtles and dugongs, and contribute significantly to marine food chains therefore supporting other wildlife living within the marine environment. Many species of commercial fish spend part of their life cycle within seagrass areas and the continuance of fishing in the Plate Gulf relies on the protection of these habitats. It is therefore imperative that these power houses of marine productivity in the Gulf be preserved through zoning that clearly identifies valuable habitats and restricts destructive activities within these areas. Subtidal muddy and sandy habitats are also productive components of the marine ecosystem and are often ignored because attention usually focuses on more colorful and high profile habitats such as coral reefs. Reducing the footprint of dredging and reclamation operations on the shallow water habitats of the Gulf is required to protect their productivity. Avoidance of non-essential marine dredging and reclamation works within these areas is the best strategy to minimize the damage to these ecosystems. Alternatives to dredging are available using techniques such as horizontal directional drilling (HDD), and if the appropriate-sized dredging vessel in addition to sediment control equipment are also used based on the project requirements, then many off-site impacts can be avoided, including plume impacts from suspended sediments in marine waters. Islands The islands of the Gulf waters consist of either nearshore outlier islands, or offshore coral cay islands that are formed from debris as a result of the erosion of coral reefs. The islands are important because they are remote from human activities and provide quite undisturbed roosting and nesting habitat for wildlife. These islands are also free of ground predators such as cats and foxes and this means that marine birds can nest on the ground. In recent years rodents such as mice and rats have reached these remote islands Plate View across an intertidal mud flat at low tide. 352 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 353

14 via fishing vessels and these now pose a serious threat to bird eggs, bird chicks and turtle hatchlings. Efforts to control rodents on offshore islands need to be undertaken through a coordinated approach within the winter and summer months when there is limited nesting, and therefore a scarcity of food on the islands which means baiting of rodents will be more effective. Marine debris illegally discarded from ships and boats operating in the marine environment wash up on the beaches of the offshore islands. This debris can consist of small plastic items or large wooden and metal objects that can impede nesting by marine turtles. The same debris also traps turtle hatchlings when they emerge from the nest and make their way to the sea. The rubbish on the islands also provides shelter for the rodents that would otherwise have limited places to seek shelter. Each winter rubbish should be removed from the islands under a supervised effort. The islands and their surrounding marine ecosystems (i.e., coral reefs and shallow water foraging areas) need to be immediately protected from development and disturbance from humans, including disturbance from light pollution at night during the nesting period (i.e., spring and early summer). Light pollution disorientates nesting turtles, and in particular turtle hatchlings which confuse the glow of lights for the sea, and often travel inland away from the coast towards light sources resulting in dehydration and death when the sun rises. It is recommended that development and its associated light sources be kept well away from these islands, and oil and gas operations in the marine environment within proximity to these islands undertake light emission management practices during the nesting and hatchling season (i.e. spring and summer). Plate The Offshore Islands are ecological hot spots in the Gulf. Coral reefs Corals exist in many locations in the Gulf with the more extensive reefs occurring offshore in areas adjacent to clear deep waters. The offshore coral islands and their reefs are considered some of the most important sites for marine biodiversity in the Gulf. The islands are surrounded by extensive coral reef ecosystems that are the habitat for large numbers of fish and other marine organisms. Coral reefs in the Gulf are under pressure from non sustainable fishing practices, unmanaged diving activities, marine development, and anchor damage. All this is set against a background of global climate change with associated wide scale coral bleaching in the region. Combined, these all impact on the health of these coral ecosystems and the survivability of their related species. The offshore coral islands and their associated reefs need to be immediately protected from human related disturbances through their designation as Marine Protected Areas. This would be in keeping with the Cabinet of Ministers Order (Order No /4/1423H) requiring all coral reefs to be designated as protected areas. Wildlife The Atlas indicates areas where urgent conservation actions are now required to protect the remaining wildlife populations from continued impact resulting from rapid development and its associated disturbance. Map 11.9 illustrates habitat and wildlife data from the various Atlas disciplines to provide an overview of the ecological hot spots within the Saudi Arabian Gulf waters. Most of these hot spots are located within the coastal embayments, offshore islands and remaining isolated regions such as the Gulf of Salwa and Ras Abu Qamees. Wildlife populations flourish in these areas due to the lack of physical disturbance from human related activities and also due to the large areas of relatively undisturbed habitats. These remote nesting, roosting and refuge locations, coupled with an abundance of nearby foraging resources results in very large populations of marine species such as dugong, dolphin, turtles and marine birds which inhabit and breed in these areas. These populations are not only significant within the Kingdom, but are also of regional and international importance because some are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as threatened or vulnerable. For example, unique populations of wildlife including two species of marine turtle and four species of marine birds visit the offshore islands each spring and early summer for nesting, and the Gulf of Salwa is known as one of the most important sites in the world for the endangered dugong (Dugong dugon) where the largest congregation of dugong ever observed has been recorded. Plate The rich and diverse coral reefs around the Offshore Islands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the Gulf. 354 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

15 a b Plate (a and b) Large numbers of terns nest on the Offshore coral Islands each spring and this is testament to the areas rich and productive marine waters. Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 355

16 The sensitivity of these areas for wildlife increases at specific times of the year based on migration and breeding periods, with spring and early summer being critical times for turtle and marine bird nesting on offshore islands, and winter being important for dugong congregations in the Gulf of Salwa. Marine wildlife is extremely sensitive to disturbance at these times of the year, and any activities planned in these sensitive areas at these critical times of the year need to be evaluated and either delayed or undertaken with extreme caution to ensure no impacts. Marine wildlife in the Gulf waters is in serious need of conservation because they are under increasing threat from coastal and marine development and associated human activities. For example, by-catch from trawling and fishing activities can have a significant impact on caught species populations, as well as on those species that feed on these organisms. Marine mammals and turtles are also often drowned in fishing nets. These impacts can be reduced using appropriate fishing equipment that is monitored and includes wildlife escape mechanisms for example Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) that allow captured turtles to escape a trawled net. Offshore and inshore islands used as nesting sites for birds need to be given particular conservation attention as these are easily disturbed by human activities and require immediate protection from development or disturbance, particularly during the breeding season (i.e., usually spring to early summer). For example, large bird populations inhabit the inshore southern coastal islands of Zakhnuniyah and Judhaym in the Gulf of Salwa, and these islands are of international significance as breeding sites for Socotra cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) with nesting occurring yearly from October to May. More studies and surveys of marine wildlife within the Gulf are required to document the distribution and conservation status of these species as well as threats to their populations. There are proposed Saudi Wildlife Commission conservation reservation areas along the Gulf Coast and these incorporate areas of high biodiversity and in addition, some of the few remaining remote pristine locations such as the offshore coral islands, Gulf of Salwa and Ras Abu Qamees (Map 11.8). These recommendations should be reviewed and modifications made if necessary that ensure the conservation of these areas biodiversity is guaranteed whilst at the same time promoting sustainable development and use by the areas stakeholders. Fisheries Fishing has been an important economic and social activity for the people of the Gulf over thousands of years, and today its importance is increasing because of an increasing population and an increased awareness of the importance of fish in a healthy diet. This demand has overexploited the existing fish stocks and combined with destructive fishing methods and wide scale damage to shallow water and intertidal habitats such as land filling and loss of fish nursery and foraging habitats (i.e., mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs) fish stocks have decreased significantly, particularly commercially valuable species. Pursuit of large species such as sharks and grouper (i.e., shark fin fishing and spearing large hamour on coral reefs) are of particular concern because these predators regulate the balance on reefs and throughout the marine environment and their decline results in disturbance throughout the ecosystem. It is recommended that No Take Fishing Zones be established around suitable marine habitats in the Gulf providing extensive and diverse areas where fish populations and their associated nursery and foraging habitats are protected from exploitation. These areas in time will again become productive fish habitats providing a sustainable supply of fish to the Gulf waters. No take protected areas have been demonstrated to benefit fisheries in other areas of the World with the key requirement being that these areas are managed, and protected from fishing. In addition, all essential intertidal and subtidal fish nursery and foraging habitats should be protected from destruction, with these habitats being indicated and zoned as important resource areas. Studies to determine current fish stocks and sustainable catch limits for commercial species is required. In addition, fishing gear and methodologies need to be reviewed and changes made to reduce their impact on marine habitats, wildlife and fish stocks; with the objective to eliminate wasteful by-catch. The establishment of fish monitoring at fish landing ports is also essential to enforce compliance and develop a fisheries management database. Plate The Offshore Islands provide safe roosting habitat for marine birds. 356 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf

17 Plate Marine turtles arrive in large numbers at the offshore islands each spring to breed and nest. Plate During nesting intervals marine turtles forage on the reefs around the islands. Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 357

18 Managing discharges Plate Reed bed wetlands are an affective means of filtering waste water and providing habitat for migratory birds. The Gulf waters provide the Kingdom with a source of drinking and bathing water, seafood and recreational amenities. This water therefore needs to be safeguarded from pollution sources including solid waste and liquid discharges. In addition to accidental oil spills, industrial and domestic discharges impact the quality of the marine waters and their living resources. It is recommended to develop and implement a Zero Harmful Discharge Strategy that is implemented by all Countries bordering the Gulf. The Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) would be the most suitable organization to coordinate and oversee this Strategy. Monitoring of discharges into the Gulf waters is also essential to identify harmful sources of pollution and to limit their impacts. The recommended Zero Harmful Discharge Strategy should include ship ballast water that can have severe ecological and economic impacts on the marine resources of the Gulf. Increasing environmental awareness Plate Treated waste water is often disposed directly into the Gulf, however if planned correctly, the mostly fresh water can have a positive effect on reducing the stress of elevated salinities on coastal intertidal habitats, and providing wetlands that attract birds. The concept of public involvement with the management and conservation of the environment has been promoted as a potential solution to some environmental problems. Public anti-littering and recycling campaigns, mangrove plantation programs and coastal clean-up events are examples of how the public can participate in protecting their environment. Environmental awareness requires a consistent and prolonged program of environmental education through the public schooling system. These topics need to be incorporated into the curriculum with teachers being trained (train the trainer), and students being assessed on their knowledge regarding their environment and their responsibilities towards protecting it. The goal should be on changing current behavior patterns that are not environmentally friendly. These same programs need to have a public focus, and the existing media sector is very capable of achieving results that have proven successful for commercial marketing by using national sport and entertainment personalities to promote good environmental behavior. As the majority of the Saudi population is under 25 years of age, these programs could very quickly change the environmental awareness within the Kingdom, with the same approach having proved successful in other Countries such as Australia and Singapore. Public recognition of individual and community environmental achievements is also important to reinforce environmental responsibility and government departments, educational institutions and private companies should all be encouraged to promote environmental champion programs among their respective staff and students. 358 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 359

19 Map 11.5 Proposed multiple use conservation area for Tarut Bay.

20 Map 11.6 mangrove habitats at risk in Tarut Bay.

21 Map 11.7 Summary map of development in the Eastern Province.

22 Map 11.8 sroposed Saudi Wildlife Commission protected areas in the Eastern Province.

23 364 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 365 Map 11.9 Summary Map of coastal and marine habitats and wildlife elong the weastern Gulf coast.

24 366 Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf Chapter 11: CONSERVATION OF NATURAL COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES 367 Plate Coral reefs around the Offshore Islands.

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