By Rana Tayseer – Feb 15,2024 

Experts differ on the importance of establishing three new coral nurseries in carefully selected locations in Aqaba (JT File photo)

AMMAN — Experts have called for increased protection of the Red Sea coral reefs of Aqaba but differed on mechanisms regarding the establishment of new coral nurseries.

The Marine Science Station of the University of Jordan, Aqaba Branch, recommended that three new coral nurseries be established in carefully selected locations and stressed on the importance of protecting coral reefs to help also protect the habitats in the sea.

“Aqaba is the only sea port of Jordan so the coral reefs are very important to us, they must be protected within a certain approach,” specialist in terrestrial and marine biodiversity Ehab Eid told The Jordan Times on Tuesday.

“There are two approaches to protecting nature. The first approach is protection within habitats, which is creating a natural reserve such as the Aqaba Marine Reserve, and the second approach is protection outside habitats, which is taking samples of plants or animals and placing them outside their environment and trying to increase their number and reproduction,” Eid explained.

He opposed the establishment of coral nurseries because “we have a relatively small bay in Aqaba, that is diverse in terms of the number of types of coral and we can work to protect it within the habitats in the Aqaba Marine Reserve.” 

Commenting on the project, director of Awraq Organisation for Environmental Development, Zeina Hamdan, highlighted the recommendation to establish three new coral nurseries, aiming to restore dead coral reefs and plant new corals as crucial steps towards preserving and enhancing coral reef ecosystems.

She stressed on the timeliness of conducting scientific research in the Gulf of Aqaba, given its unique natural environment, which contributes to the formation of rare-quality coral reefs.

Hamdan stressed the significance of coral reefs, citing a report by the United Nations Development Programme, which underscores their role as vital ecosystems supporting approximately eight million species of living organisms and serving as a source of food for about 500 million people worldwide.

She emphasised the “crucial” role of the private sector in environmental preservation and commends the contributions of Ayla Oasis Company in this field. She also highlighted the importance of private sector engagement in supporting initiatives aimed at conserving marine ecosystems and underscores the significance of corporate responsibility in addressing environmental challenges.

The reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba, located approximately 330km south of Amman, cover almost half of the city’s coastline, offering around 30 diving locations for exploration of the prismatic coral. Of Aqaba’s 27km coastline, 13km features coral reefs, according to the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan.