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Red Sea Life
expansion of coralline rock has shaped the red sea and it’s over-fishing affects the delicate balance of species higher up the food
surrounding area over the millennia. some of the largest of these chain supported by coral. essential apex predators, the sharks, are
Breathing Life into Corals
enormous coral structures are in the south pacific where coral atolls being annihilated on an industrial scale throughout the world’s oceans
rise 4km from the sea floor, but the largest coral structure on earth is and this has a direct effect on all the world’s reefs. although illegal
the great Barrier reef which stretches 2600km along australia’s north throughout the red sea shark fishing still occurs, with the greatest
east coast. the entire red sea coastline is a great basin of coralline incidence of shark fishing in yemeni waters. sharks that move in and
rock formed by the actions of coral polyps. out of the red sea are killed for their fins which are sold to the Far east
and their absence has a serious impact on all red sea reefs, including
growing slowly at about the same rate as your fingernails, corals those of egypt. Destructive fishing practices include blast fishing that
are constantly expanding their ranks of colonies and great stone destroy huge tracts of reef and cyanide fishing which poison areas of
structures. a constant battle for real estate ensues in slow motion on live coral. industrial fishing damages reefs by taking huge quantities of
a microscopic scale. individual colonies battle and compete against by-catch that would be essential inhabitants of a healthy reef system.
others for room to grow in a physical and chemical war. some corals turtles, sharks and dolphins all fall victim to by-catch and are often
secrete venom into the surrounding water to deter the advances of noticeable only by their absence in many areas of egyptian reefs.
rival colonies whereas some will simply extrude their gut onto the
surface of their victims to dissolve the rival colony’s flesh leaving a Corals’ arch enemies are the algaes. When coral colonies die their
bare rock skeleton onto which the victorious colony can expand. bleached white skeleton is soon covered with rampant algae and
entire areas of damaged coral reef can quickly be lost to algae. once
the spectacular colours of coral come in part from minute pigments the numbers of algae grazers on the reef such as parrotfish are
within the corals flesh. these pigments act as a sunscreen for the reduced through overfishing the algae starts to proliferate and out
delicate polyps and help some species survive completely out of compete the corals resulting in a dramatic reduction in biodiversity in
the water during extremely low spring tides. tropical reef ecosystems.
you can play your part in helping to protect the coral reefs of the red
sea directly by understanding and respecting coral.
Corals face natural threats from predators such as the crown of thorns
starfish. this large colourful starfish is a powerful predator of corals
and has wreaked havoc on coral populations in some areas of the red » never touch coral. a single strike with a wayward fin or hand
sea. can damage the coral’s essential protective mucus layer and
result in death for the entire coral colony from disease.
Corals also fall victim to various diseases, such as the white or black
» never deliberately break coral for a souvenir or buy coral curios.
band disease, which attacks the coral’s flesh leaving distinct bleached
in egypt the export of coral products is illegal.
dead colonies. although the corals build fortresses of solid rock and
can endure the tropical sun far better than Forsskal and his men, corals
» never drop litter. litter on the reef can smother and kill corals
can be very delicate and are prone to changes in their environment.
while plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish by turtles. the
increasing water temperature can result in coral bleaching; this is
average piece of plastic takes 4,500 years to break down.
where the essential algae within the coral’s tissues leave the colonies
» never drop cigarette ends. experiments have shown that just
and results in death for the coral polyps.
one cigarette filter is toxic enough to kill water fleas in eight
litres of water. in an annual global survey in september 2006,
the great el nino event of 1998 was the result of un-naturally
over 1.9 million cigarette butts were recorded from beaches
high water temperatures in the indian ocean and decimated coral
around the world. the filters are packed with tar and chemicals
populations in the maldives and seychelles. a similar event in the red
such as cadmium, lead and arsenic and they leach into sur-
sea would be catastrophic. many of the fish and invertebrate species
rounding seawater. the ends are often mistaken for food by
found in the red sea are endemic species, meaning they are found
fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals where they leach toxic
nowhere else.
chemicals, block the digestive tract or even cause death.
» Do not anchor on coral and never use an operator who does.
as increased sea temperatures leave corals vulnerable to the
always use a mooring and never exceed the limit of boats on a
devastating effects of coral bleaching, increased ocean acidification
affect corals in a far more discreet way. the world’s oceans absorb
» never feed fish.
Co2 gas and have been subject to a serious increase in dissolved
Co2 levels since the industrial revolution. this fall in pH affects the
» Help to reduce the effects of global warming.
process of calcium fixation by the corals and furthermore makes the
surrounding water more favourable to the invasive algae species.
save our seas Foundation
By far the biggest threat to coral reefs is man. around 60 per cent of (sosF) is a non-profit
coral reefs in the world have been damaged or destroyed by human organization that
activity including: development and sedimentation; over-fishing and implements and supports
destructive fishing practices; increased sea temperature through scientific research and educational projects focused on the
global warming; and ocean acidification marine environment. it aims to learn more about the role that
marine species, particularly sharks and rays, play in maintaining
Development and sedimentation affect coral by choking the a healthy ecosystem. it hopes to educate the public about the
minute polyp’s mouths and blocking out the sunlight required by need to save our seas, especially the consequences of removing
Zooxanthellae to produce sugars and oxygen through photosynthesis. sharks and rays from the world’s oceans, to support natural marine
strict laws are enforced by the ras mohammed national park that resource preservation and to conserve the marine realm. For more
limit the development of hotels in the sharm el sheikh area to help information on sosF and the issues relevant to this article please
preserve the reefs in this area which are vulnerable to the effects of visit
issue 2 august / september 2009 
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