Environmental Monitoring Programme

Monitoring of coastal and marine environment is one of the key tools in scientifically based marine and coastal resources management. It aims at defining ambient conditions and recording changes that may occur in the ecosystem due to natural and/or anthropogenic sources. Most of well developed countries have well established sustainable monitoring programs of their coastal and marine environments and consider such programs as important assists in marketing and managing their resources especially in recreation, tourism and living resources. In the less developed countries the situation is different. The value of monitoring is not fully appreciated and quite often it is considered an economic burden. However the value of environmental monitoring would be appreciated and its costs would be easily justified if it is kept in mind that monitoring is a source of important indicators for sustainable development and a means of early warning of changes that may occur in the ecosystem due to anthropogenic and natural sources and could be very costly if not even impossible to reverse. The programme also runs technical training courses in sampling and analysis to develop human recourses and raise technical capacity within the region. 

The main objectives of the regional monitoring program defined by the team of experts were:

  • to ensure that adverse trends are detected in sufficient time to implement remedial action, and
  • to provide an objective test of the effectiveness of existing environmental management practices (on a local, national and regional scale).

The overall concept of the REMP addresses several aspects:

  • monitoring processes: tracking pollutant and stressor trends in key environmental compartments and processes; tracking critical primary and secondary production processes
  • monitoring impact: assessing the status of biological community components, through contaminant accumulation measurements
  •  monitoring stress:  assessing community dynamics in relation to pollutant measurements to determine trends and evaluate sustainability 

The program had been designed to complement and match with PERSGA’s existing monitoring activities, which had assigned priority to highly valued ecosystem components such as:

* Mangrove *Coral * Elasmobranches *Commercial and non-commercial fish stocks

*Birds & mammals *Turtles

Integration with existing effort will be achieved in a number of ways:

  • By providing information on potential contaminant threats to the components listed above
  • By providing information on key productivity processes upon which these components may depend
  • By providing information on habitats not at present within the monitoring program (eg, soft bottom habitats and seagrass communities)

Activities will also be physically integrated, to ensure that resources are efficiently utilized.  In particular, the additional resources proposed for the REMP will provide substantial practical and logistic support to existing monitoring activities, and will facilitate an increased rate of data gathering for these activities.  Whenever possible, existing and proposed activities will be synchronized to ensure

  • Optimized quantity of data
  •  Most efficient use of resources and facilities
  • Optimized correspondence between different data types

Facilities and human and technical capacity
The team of experts surveyed the availability of facilities and the human and technical capacity for implementing national monitoring programs in all member states. They came out with a recommendation that two levels of training need to be given to persons who would be directly involved in implementing the program, and identified a standard list of equipment to be provided fully or partially to every member state according to its need. Training was provided in two training workshops; one took place in Jeddah and the other in Monaco and the needed equipment were provided.

Data Management and Interpretation

Data sharing agreement

The successful operation of the REMP relies heavily on all participating nations signing a Memorandum on data sharing. To secure the best benefit from the program, nations should also be encouraged to contribute relevant data obtained outside the formal scope of REMP activities.

Integration with PERSGA database

PERSGA has developed a database and GIS system that is used for the management of biological and fisheries monitoring data generated by the previous biological monitoring programs. Recently the database has been updated to include rapid assessment of coastal developments and the bulk of data that will be generated in the framework of the sustainable regional monitoring program. Subsequent to providing the equipment and training to all member states, they all signed agreements with PERSGA to implement their National Monitoring Programs and transmit data to central database in PERSGA.            

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