By Christof Schneider
From October 19-24, 2014 the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) hosted a Reef Check EcoDiver Training in Aqaba. The training of local divers is part of JREDS’ marine environmental program to raise awareness and knowledge about coral reefs and to build up a team of qualified divers for further reef monitoring activities at the Jordanian Red Sea coast.
The training was funded by the German GIZ, provider of international cooperation services for sustainable development, as part of the project "Protection of environment and biodiversity in Jordan", and was arranged and managed by Christof Schneider of Datadiving GmbH & Co. KG, a German scientific diving company.
A team of three German EcoDiver Trainers, led by Christian von Mach (Reef Check Course Director and Coordinator of the Red Sea Environmental Centre) operated the training program that gave EcoDiver qualification to 14 local divers with diverse professional backgrounds. Participants came from The Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan, the Aqaba Marine Park, the Marine Science Station (associated with the University of Jordan), the Royal Jordan Naval Force, the Aqaba Port Authority as well as Instructors and Divemasters from local dive centers.
The site that was selected for training as well as the survey dives, is a popular dive site in Aqaba and therefore frequently visited by dive centers. Before reaching a gentle slope, an extended shallow reef between 5 to 10 meters deep gave the participants a good opportunity to easily practice the Reef Check methods. Aside from getting familiar with the indicators and procedures, this area also raised everybody`s attention for the appearance of different kinds of coral stress and damage. Coral damage caused by divers, anchoring boats as well as pollution could all be observed. Invertebrate and fish indicator species were present in relatively low numbers only, some indicators such as full grown groupers and snappers were not sighted at all. Additional non-survey dives were done at other sites. These seemed to have somewhat higher coral cover and better reef health. The general absence of commercial fish species however became apparent in all dives.
Thanks to the high motivation and interest of the participants, as well as good organization and logistics by JREDS, learning and practicing in the classroom and underwater worked out well for everybody.
Fringing a short and highly exploited coastline, the coral reefs of Jordan are facing various problems. Located close to Aqaba port, industrial areas and hotels, increasing pressure on the marine environment is unavoidable. There is an urgent need to take action, and monitoring of the coral reefs is an important part to get done.
For more information please contact Christof Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org