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Project to map coral reefs begins

posted on 14/08/2007: 1501 views



A team of UAE and international scientists has started work on a project to map Fujairah's coral reefs. The group will spend three years preparing an "environment sensitivity map” that municipality chiefs will refer to before granting permits to developers. "We do not want any conflict between the environment and development,” said geologist Maral Khaled Shuriqi.

Fujairah's clear ocean waters and beautiful sandy beaches have become major tourist attractions, and many seafront areas are being developed to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors.

The map project means that in future developers will have to respect the marine riches of the area, said Shuriqi, who works for Fujairah Municipality's Environment Protection and Development Department.

The scheme is the result of collaboration between the US' National Coral Reef Institute and the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF).

Four monitoring stations will be located underwater between Fujairah city and Dibba. The monitoring stations are composed of limestone tiles that coral larvae can easily colonise. Scientists will regularly check to see what kinds of corals and other marine creatures are growing on them.

Dr Christophe Tourenq, EWS-WWF's manager of science and research, said the study will also evaluate the rate of recovery of the area's coral reefs, which suffered extensive damage as a result of Cyclone Gonu in June.

The reefs, being a source of revenue for diving operators and protecting the coast from erosion, are vital for the emirate's fishing industry. Healthy coral provides food and shelter for fish and other marine organisms.

Tourenq said he believed the Fujairah reefs also had regional significance as their health affected the well-being of coral in the Arabian Gulf. The scientists will be comparing genetic samples of local species with the ones found in the Arabian Gulf to investigate the possible link. Similar programmes are already running in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

EWS-WWF and the foreign experts are collaborating with the Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi and Qatar's Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Reserves.

Tourenq said he would ask divers not to tamper with the monitoring stations as this would compromise the results of the study. (Emirates Today)

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