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Red Sea will be ‘ugly, empty lake’

A key Egyptian conservation group has lamented the partial failure of a fishing ban announced recently to boost stocks in the country’s waters.

“The National Authority of Fisheries recently issued a decree banning all fishing in the Egyptian Red Sea for a period of three months,” stated Amr Ali, MD of the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA).

“Sadly, this decree was not observed. Exceptions were taken and fishing continued in parts of the Red Sea with the justification of the social needs of the fishermen and their families.”

According to Ali, fish continued to be taken from “the area of the Gulf of Aqaba, and from Hurghada to the deep South”. Yet this represented “just 2 per cent of the total fish catch from the Egyptian Red Sea”.

“Essentially, by destroying these fish stocks, we are sacrificing tourism in the region and the natural resources of the Red Sea for just 2 per cent of the fish catch,” he said. “You do not need to be a genius to see that this is total madness. Nor do you need to be a mathematician. The revenue from this 2 per cent catch is clearly minute compared to the total income from tourism in the Red Sea.”

While stating that HEPCA understood “the effects of such a declaration on the lives of the Red Sea fishermen”, and would work “with our partners to minimise any potential social damage and to work on positive solutions”, Ali said that, if such fisheries continue, “we are also condemning the reefs of the Red Sea to certain death”.

“In time,” he declared, “the Red Sea will resemble nothing more than an ugly, empty lake.”

HEPCA is working, said Ali, with the Egyptian Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) and South Sinai Association for Diving and Marine Activities (SSDM) on “an initiative working towards declaring the Red Sea a no-catch zone”.

The initiative will build “on the many positive steps taking by SSDM since the end of 2007, in association with the National Parks of Egypt, the Minister of Tourism, the CDWS and the Governorate of South Sinai”.

* Dr Mahmoud Hanafy, a senior marine biologist and professor from Suez Canal University, has joined HEPCA as Scientific Advisor, having previously worked with the organisation on specific projects.

Known for his research and other work in conservation and fisheries, Dr Hanafy also works as a Special Advisor to the National Parks of the Red Sea, and for the Red Sea Governorate.

Source: Divenet

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