Regional Monitoring Programme for Habitats and Biodiversity 

Mangroves      Coral Reefs        Marine Turtles        Sea Birds

Most large marine ecosystems have developed to some kind of a steady state that is mainly controlled by the natural settings and atmospheric annual cycle. However gradual and abrupt changes in the ecosystems do occur due a number of natural and anthropogenic stresses. Pollution may enter the coastal and marine environment in different ways and factors that affect pollution are numerous. These factors are strongly related to pollution loads, wind intensity and the direction, currents, water temperature and salinity and characteristics and the geomorphology of the coastline. The major sources of pollution include domestic wastewater, industrial emissions and effluents, coastal waste disposal, offshore maritime sources and pollution loads carried by the wind and by watercourses coming into the sea. In simple classification stresses on the coastal and marine environment can be:

Natural stresses: such as periodic extreme low tides, opportunistic species outbreak, earthquakes, wave and extreme high tide action (tsunami), periodic fresh water runoff

Anthropogenic stresses: such as pressure from population increases, including migration; and intensified uses, Depletion of fish stocks and destructive fishing methods (traps, nets, spear-fishing, dynamite fishing, etc.), collection of corals and ornamental reef species, untreated domestic sewage and industrial effluent, excessive non-point source pollution, e.g., from agricultural runoff and contamination of aquifer, ship-based pollution; including oil, plastics and bilge water, land-based and urban construction activities including dredging, filling, and increased siltation, breakage of corals by divers, watercraft and ships.

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).

They also defined two types of variables to be monitored: core variable and additional variables

Conceptual relationships defined by the team of experts.

 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

Thus monitoring of the marine and coastal environment is of a high strategic value for keeping ecosystem health under regular check, scientifically based decisions in coastal management and development purposes and for human health. All these factors are certainly of high economic value and can justify spending on monitoring programs. There are also more directly economically related justifications of monitoring. Some of these are settlement of disputes between industries sharing a geographic location or even disputes between neighboring countries in the case of pollution accidents resulting in economical losses or in the case of specifying a polluter to be held responsible for the economic consequences. It is also important for determining fines and taxes following the polluter pay principle. Monitoring programs also reflect transparent governance and interactive management. Monitoring results are usually made public and they can be of a great value in environmental education and public awareness. Not to go into too much detail the following section discusses the risk of unhealthy coastal waters on human health and what cost can this be to governments. 

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