Submitted by Dr. Mohammed M. A. Kotb
The newly adopted PERSGA (the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden) protocol, "The Conservation of Biological Diversity and the Establishment of Network of Protected Areas in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Region", signed in 2005, is a significant supplement to the Jeddah Convention of 1982. Accordingly, surveying and monitoring of coral reef communities are among the aims of this protocol.
Through establishing the regular process for integrated assessment of the state of the marine environment last year, PERSGA achieved major progress in knowledge-based management. In addition to the 1st SOMER (State of the Marine Environment Report - RSGA) produced in late 2006, PERSGA has recently produced three new issues in its Technical Series and several other manuals and guidebooks.
In order to evaluate and monitor the status of marine habitats and biodiversity within the RSGA, surveys must be undertaken that are comparable in extent, nature, detail and output. Standardizing survey methodology within the region is essential to allow valid comparison of data, and for the formulation of conservation efforts that are regionally applicable. A regional survey guideline - "Standard Survey Methods for Key Habitats and Key Species in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden" - was prepared by PERSGA during 2001 and published in 2004.
The regional standard survey methods guideline adopted Reef Check methodology as one of the coral reef survey methods, in addition to life-form and video belt methods. This set of methods provides a range of options in terms of logistical capacity and expertise and the amount and detail of data collected. With increasing expertise, it is recommended that national teams progress from the Reef Check method to the more comprehensive and data-rich life-form and video belt methods.
In the past several years, PERSGA held several training workshops to train and upgrade the national teams of the region on Reef Check and other underwater survey techniques. The Reef Check methodology was used for the regional surveys of coral reef communities during 2002 and 2004. Reef Check is the applied methodology for the national monitoring programmes of some member States of PERSGA (Jordan, Yemen, and Djibouti), while others apply more complex methodology (Egypt, using Photography Quadrate and Line Intercept Transect).
During 2008, PERSGA conducted regional monitoring surveys using the Reef Check methodology in Djibouti, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan. In January 2009, surveying will continue in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. The regional report on coral reef status will be published during February-March 2009, and it will be incorporated into the 2nd SOMER by the end of 2009. In this regional survey, 35 sites were surveyed in 6 countries and 30 experts participated in the survey activities. All the experts are officially participating through the ministries of environment of their respective countries. Through its surveys, the PERSGA team raised awareness for IYOR and supported the IYOR webpage with the survey activities: http://www.iyor.org/focalpoints/orgs/persga/default.asp.
PERSGA also contributed to the global report "Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008" in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden chapter, and contributes to several other global reports concerning the RSGA region. PERSGA is considered the focal point for the RSGA for several international organizations, as it cooperates to present the RSGA environmental status and information to the international community.