as our team arrived at the site, the distinctive blue and white national de), nexus (www.nexusdiving.com), oonas (www.oonasdiveclub.com),
park patrol boats promptly directed us to buoy two for the descent. red sea Diving College (www.redseacollege.com), sea Queen Fleet
Day boats and safari boats from CDWs member centres across sharm (www.seaqueens.com) and sinai Divers (www.sinaidivers.com). a total
el sheikh lined up across a 1km stretch of reef. Zodiacs buzzed from of 12 divers from the sharm resident volunteer environment group
one boat to the next to ensure all 120 volunteer clean-up divers were Clean sharm (www.cleansharm.org) also took part.
suitably equipped for the job ahead.
By collecting photographic and salvaged evidence of such
our group descended to 20m away from the bustle above, mesh bags destruction, the national parks hope to raise awareness of the damage
in hand and cutters carefully stored for use. We scoured the area. a being done to world-class dive sites and build up a strong case for
dive site we were all very familiar with, but against our natural diver what should be done. although fishing is strictly banned at ras
instincts we did not go there to look for the life. the mission was mohammed, it is hard for the national parks to actively stop boats
to seek out any items that did not belong to the natural makeup of operating at night in the area. around 40 illegal fishing boats were
Jackfish alley, a key dive site in the world-celebrated marine park of caught by the national parks patrol boats during the three-month
ras mohammed. spawning season in 2009.
it must have been two minutes before the first pair spotted the fishing Dr mohammed salem, the director of the national park south sinai
line draped like thin spaghetti around the coral reef. Carefully ensuring protectorates office said: ‘this [ras mohammed national park] is one
no damage or distress was caused to the surrounding marine life, each of the most important coral reef areas for spawning of many species.
of us cut away then wrapped the lines around our hands and fed these spawning depends on the health of the reef, as there is a relationship
clumps into our bags. Hooks gently handled and placed together with between feeding habitats and spawning events. once destroyed, the
the line inside the bag, my buddy and i also recovered fishing weights spawning event is affected.’
and a plastic snorkel mouthpiece.
‘[the clean-up] was a great start. From what we have seen the biggest
all dive guides were fully briefed by national park rangers before the problem is in the deep water where the rocks and anchors are found.
dive on what to tell divers to take, what to leave and how to cut away i think it will raise awareness – we plan to send to fishing authorities
fishing line in the safest and most environmentally friendly way. pictures and documentation to show the impact of illegal fishing in
ras mohammed and the rest of the south sinai region.’
For a whole hour the current gently carried us
Dr mohammed joined the HepCa-organised conference in Hurghada
through the sandy channel, each buddy pair pausing
in may 2009 to discuss the problems of illegal fishing. the first of the
at various coral heads to cut away line with a look of conferences planned was held in sharm and organised by the CDWs.
concentration similar to that of tailors in a suit shop.
among the recommendations put forward at both conferences were:
once the eye is trained for fishing debris, it’s hard to notice the passing
the identification of fishermen; a ban on issuing new fishing licences
life, which our guide, Bianca from Camel Dive Club told us later that
to those with another job; and redistribution of fishermen according
day, included a large manta ray.
to the origin of their licence, which forbids them from catching in
When we all surfaced the bags were quickly taken by zodiac to the
national park boats. the bags joined the collection of recovered
Dr mohammed said he wants to come up with a realistic plan where
items to be recorded and photograph as evidence by the national
traditional and sustainable fishing continues in waters around south
park marine experts to help them try to tackle illegal and destructive
sinai, but stop the destructive and unsustainable techniques often
fishing in these waters. most of the bags handed in were filled with
used by fishermen coming in from other parts of egypt.
‘We are not against fishing, we are against destructive fishing,’ Dr
also among the 150kg of rubbish splayed out on the national park
mohammed explained. ‘south sinai, particularly the ras mohammed
boat was a pile of small rocks salvaged by a select team of technical
national park is still one of the most attractive areas for divers, which
divers from depths of between 0m and 50m. the rocks were
also means it is important in terms of tourist revenue.’
evidence, i was told by the park authorities, of a destructive technique
used by fishermen to catch jackfish.
Dr mohammed said his immediate concern is to change the closing
period of fishing to coincide with the spawning season – mid-april
Jackfish will only attack a moving target and so the use of dead bait
to the end of July. Currently the no-take months are from 1 June
on a hook will not work to lure them. Fishermen use a system where
to 1 august. During this time fishermen are forbidden and actively
bait is tied to a line, then attached to a small rock. the rock is held in
stopped from leaving harbours.
place by a quick-release knot. When jackfish are in the area, the rope is
pulled, the rock drops to the coral below and the bait (usually squid) is He believes that by working closely with the CDWS,
carried by the current. the bait is then perceived by jackfish as moving
a lot can be done. Clean-ups will continue with the
prey. as well as impacting on jackfish populations, such techniques
cause serious damage to the coral.
on-going support of CDWS members and staff.
the July clean-up was the first in a series of projects run by the CDWs
as well as the visible impact of such projects, the publicity will see this
and national parks of egypt to enable the dive community throughout
issue become of greater importance to the egyptian government.
the region to help to protect ecologically important areas and to
highlight the problems of illegal and destructive fishing.
‘We hope to see many more such clean-ups across the whole of the
south sinai,’ Dr mohammed added.
CDWs member operations clean-up participants included anthias
Divers (www.anthiasdivers.com), Camel Dive Club (www.cameldive.
com), Colona (www.colona.com), king snefro Fleet (www.kingsnefro.
issue 2 august / september 2009 www.cdws.travel
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