As part of its efforts to enhance integration and coordination with its strategic partners, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi organized the Stakeholder’s Forum of Marine Protected Areas on Tuesday October 20th, which was held remotely. The forum highlighted the system and objectives of marine reserves management and introduced the most important environmental aspects and components of marine reserves in Abu Dhabi.
The forum, in which 57 representatives from government agencies in the Emirate participated, included an overview of the work of monitoring and evaluating wildlife in marine reserves in Abu Dhabi, and an overview of activities and uses in marine protected areas. Also discussed was the mechanism for communicating with partners on site, and an open discussion on the “Cooperation and the Roles of Partners in Marine Reserves.”
Ahmed Al-Hashemi, Executive Director of EAD’s Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, spoke at the forum and addressed the importance of the strategic partners’ contribution and their complementing roles, as well as enhancing efforts to conserve species, tightening control, and enforcing environmental legislation and laws within marine reserves. Al-Hashemi also spoke about the importance of enhancing environmental awareness through implementing environmental awareness programs and promoting ecotourism projects.
During the forum, Al-Hashemi discussed how EAD manages six marine reserves within the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network, which represent 13.9 % of the total marine environment in Abu Dhabi. These include Ras Ghanada Marine Reserve, Bul Syayeef Water Reserve, Al-Saadiyat Marine National Park and Mangrove National Park. Each reserve is home to a number of the best and most important marine habitats in the Emirate, as they contain habitats rich in biodiversity in terms of the number and density of local species. The reserves also contribute to the containment of endangered species on a local and global level.
Al-Hashemi emphasized that these natural reserves preserve important ecosystems, and the species are important for sustainability for current and future generations, as they act as living laboratories that monitor the health of the environment. Over the past years, EAD has carried out significant achievements in managing these reserves and implemented conservation and protection programs in protected areas that preserve the components of biological diversity in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. These achievements have ensured the effective contribution to promoting social and economic development.
EAD’s efforts have shown positive results for several habitats and species and have contributed to the stabilization of the population of important organisms, such as sea turtles and dugongs. Moreover, EAD has contributed to the safety of different environments, such as coral reefs and mangroves, as well as strengthening the country’s position on the global environmental action map.
Marine reserves in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi:
1. Saadiyat Marine National Park
Established by an Emiri Decree in 2017, the reserve is located in the marine area adjacent to Saadiyat Island, with a total area of 59 square kilometers. it is home to an abundance of marine life including the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle, which use the island’s coast for nesting.
2. Al Yasat Marine Protected Area
This protected area was established by an Emiri decree in 2005 and amended in 2009 and 2019. Its current area is 2,256 square kilometers, and it is distinguished by its environmental importance as well as its historical and cultural factors. The protected area islands are surrounded by coral reefs, which act as important sanctuaries for many marine organisms, and an ideal environment for the reproduction and protection of fish.
3. Mangrove Marine National Park
Mangrove Marine National Park was established by an Emiri decree in 2017 and is home to more than 250,000 mangrove trees. These homes have proven to help absorb and convert carbon dioxide, one of the gases that cause climate change. Located in the marine area adjacent to the Eastern Mangrove, the park reaches a total area of 10 square kilometers.
4. Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Area
This protected area was established by an Emiri decree in 2017 and covers a total area of 145 square kilometers. It is located west of the Musaffah channel and considered an important area for migratory and resident bird species. It includes a range of suitable habitats for the Greater Flamingo and other bird species. The reserve was joined by the World Wetland Sites Network in 2016 under the international agreement known as the Ramsar Convention signed by the state in December 2007.
5. Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve
Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve was established by an Emiri decree in 2001, and joined the Global Network of Biosphere Reserves, with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It extends over a total area of about 4,255 square kilometers and is considered an ideal model for the marine and coastal environment of the country. Rich in biological diversity and supported by marine and coastal environments, it is also home to the second largest community of dugong in the world.
6. Ras Ghanada Marine Protected Area
Established by an Emiri decree in 2017, Ras Ghanada Marine Protected Area is located in the marine area bordering Ghantoot, called Ras Ghanada, and extends over a total area of 55 square kilometers. The coral communities in the area have direct, indirect, economic and intrinsic great values, helping to protect the coastal region from hurricanes and is an important element of tourism attraction.