Changes in environment make finding reefs in UAE harder

Already surviving at the threshold of their tolerance to temperature and salinity, Arabian Gulf corals are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment and can be easily damaged by the stirring of sediment, a result of dredging activities, and other man-made impacts.

DUBAI // Kathleen Russell first started scuba diving around the Abu Dhabi coastline in 2001. Enjoying the sight of the colourful reefs and fish was a simple affair – there were plenty of dive sites right off some of the capital’s main beaches.

More than a decade later, diving is still good in Abu Dhabi, she said, although getting to sites with abundant coral cover does take longer these days.

Already surviving at the threshold of their tolerance to temperature and salinity, Arabian Gulf corals are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment and can be easily damaged by the stirring of sediment, a result of dredging activities, and other man-made impacts.

“Some of our sites have been lost because of coastal development, but a lot of the sites are still resilient,” she said. “There is still a lot of marine life that we see.”

These days, the Canadian mother-of-two, who is also manager and course director at Al Mahara Diving Centre in the capital, recommends reefs in the Western Region and around Sir Bani Yas Island, as well as in Ras Ghanada, as the most vibrant.

While development has affected corals in the capital, more people now are taking up diving and more are aware of the value of preserving reefs, she said.

“For us, we are drawn to the sea,” she said. “Whatever you love, you want to treasure or preserve. It is something you are never going to own but it is something you want to protect.”

vtodorova@thenational.ae

Published: December 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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