The Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are known throughout the world for their outstandingly beautiful marine and coastal environments, the diversity of species, including many endemics, and their value for human development. The local resources have been used in a sustainable manner by the inhabitants of the region for thousands of years. However, more recently the pressure on these environments and resources has substantially increased, with the development in several countries of petroleum-based economies that require sea transport for petroleum exports, the expansion of international dive tourism and general population growth in the coastal zone. Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established in many parts of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as tools to provide for sustainable resource use, economic development and conservation. Of particular importance is the need to conserve areas that represent the range of the region’s unique habitats and biodiversity and to support national development. This has been initiated through the integration of 12 MPAs from throughout the region into a Regional Network of MPAs for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. These 12 MPAs are: Iles des Sept Frères and Ras Siyan (Djibouti); Ras Mohammed National Park; Giftun Islands and Straits of Gubal (Egypt); Aqaba coral reefs (Jordan); Straits of Tiran; Wajh Bank, Sharm Habban and Sharm Munaybirah; Farasan Islands (Saudi Arabia); Aibat and Saad ad-Din Islands, Saba Wanak (Somalia); Sanganeb Marine National Park; Mukkawar Island and Dungonab Bay (Sudan); Socotra Islands; Belhaf and Bir Ali area (Yemen).

PERSGA developed of a Regional Master Plan for MPAs in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden is consistent with the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and also parallels developments in a number of other regional sea areas (e.g. the Caribbean and Mediterranean) where similar regional networks of MPAs have been established.

The objectives of the Regional Master Plan are:

  • to develop regional capacity in all aspects of MPA planning and managem.
  • to provide for the sustainable use of living marine resources
  • to support local and national economic and social development
  •  to involve local communities and stakeholders as partners in MPA management
  •  to conserve representative and prime examples of the biodiversity of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
  • to conduct research and monitoring programmes for the benefit of MPA management
  •  to enhance public awareness of the marine resources and biodiversity of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and the principles of sustainable use
  •  to protect the unique cultural heritage of the marine and coastal environments of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
  • to implement a regional legal framework for protected areas and biodiversity.

 This Regional Master Plan includes guidelines based on currently accepted best practice in the planning and management of MPAs that have been adapted to suit the specific situations found in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. These guidelines include: • the planning process • the development of zoning plans • research and monitoring • public awareness • stakeholder consultation and participation • sustainable financing • capacity building • personnel requirements. There are significant differences between the countries surrounding the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in their level of technical and scientific capacity for planning and managing MPAs. This is due in part to differences in economic development and assistance from.

the international donor community. This Regional Master Plan outlines the strengthening required in national legal and institutional mechanisms, as well as the need for a regional protocol on MPAs to guide the development of national MPA legislation where it is lacking. The establishment of a Regional Activity Centre for MPAs will allow for the effective coordination of the Regional Network. Additional mechanisms are described for coordination among the MPAs in the Network, information exchange, capacity building, institutional strengthening and the establishment of linkages with other regional networks. It is envisaged that the development of a strong Regional Network of MPAs, and growth of national capacity in the planning and management of MPAs, will foster the establishment of other MPAs in each country of the region. To further support this process, this Regional Master Plan includes guidelines for the identification and selection of other MPAs.

This programme implements the protocol concerning the conservation of biodiversity and the establishment of network of protected areas in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The protocol was signed in 2005 to maintain the safety and integrity of ecosystems conserve biodiversity and protect threatened species, critical habitats and sites of importance in the region.

The programme builds regional capacities and implements plans related to the management of important natural habitat such as coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses and key species such as turtles, birds and marine mammals.

 

The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden