Community-based reef research and conservation programme launched in Muscat
Since 2009 award-winning, international conservation organisation Biosphere Expeditions, with the support of the Reef Check Foundation, the Marine Conservation Society and the Anglo-Omani Society, have been surveying Omani reefs and training Omanis in reef survey techniques.
This has already resulted in the establishment of marine protected areas in Musandam and community-based surveys near Muscat.
But now Omanis, spearheaded by Jenan Alasfoor, have taken the next step, setting up local endeavour Reef Check Oman and giving Omani reefs the science-based care they need.
Jenan Alasfoor from Muscat says: “I am an avid diver and I was trained by Biosphere Expeditions to Reef Check Trainer level and recently became the Reef Check co-ordinator for Oman.
The ocean is my passion and reefs are under threat from climate change, pollution, development and other impacts.
Reefs are a beautiful asset of our country, but it often seems they have no voice.
We need more Omanis speaking up for our reefs and protecting them, not just because they are beautiful, but also because they provide income through tourism, protection from storms and form the basis of fishermen livelihoods around the coast.”
Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions, adds: “This is exactly what we need: local people surveying their own reefs and supporting government efforts so that the natural beauty of Oman can be better protected and passed down to the next generation, as well as safeguard livelihoods and traditions, for example of fishermen or those depending on income through tourism.”
Dr. Gregor Hodgson, founder and executive director of Reef Check, a global reef research and conservation organisation, adds: “This is another great initiative by Biosphere Expeditions working with local people. Only months after having been instrumental in the creation of Reef Check Maldives, I am extremely pleased to see this collaboration in Oman, with Omanis and for Omani reefs, lead to better marine education and conservation in the country, for the benefit of all.”
Karin Straub, Managing Director of Euro Divers says: “Healthy reefs are the basis of our business, so we are proud to be working with Reef Check Oman towards this”. Paul Murphy, Managing Director of the Grand Hyatt Muscat agrees: “I am happy to confirm Hyatt’s support for this important effort to preserve the beauty of Oman, something our business is based on too.”
Jenan Alasfoor of Reef Check Oman replies: “The more support we receive for our efforts, the better, and we are grateful to Hyatt and Euro Divers for their assistance.
I know the economic climate in Oman is tough at the moment, but if there are any more companies out there, who would like to become involved in community-based environmental protection schemes, they should contact me so that we can work with their CSR departments and staff.”
Beyond garnering support, the plan of Reef Check Oman is now to co-ordinate concerted, community-based survey efforts around the country and to work with the government and Biosphere Expeditions to provide science-based information and solutions for reef protection.
Jenan Alasfoor concludes “the more Omanis, we can train and the more capacity we can build, the better. So we invite divers and businesses all across Oman to join us in our efforts. With their help we can create something big and positive for our country. Reefs in Oman are threatened, and with them the country’s economy and well-being. Problems are overfishing, pollution and development without concern for the environment. The time to be aware of this and act accordingly is now, and if community-based surveys and the scientific data they will provide can help government to make the right decisions based on scientific facts, then everyone wins in the end.”
More information about placements for Omanis to be trained in reef survey techniques and to participate in other ways is on www.reefcheckoman.org/participate.html. Details about annual reef surveys are on www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives and resulting reef health reports are on www.biosphere-expeditions.org/reports.