Marine Protected Areas
The Arabian Sea appears to be one of the areas that are most severely affected by the loss and degradation of coral reefs. According to recent estimates, up to 35% of coral reefs may have already been lost to natural causes and anthropogenic stresses (oil pollution, unmanaged coastal development, unregulated commercial and recreational fishing and diving).
Private protected areas have been established for a long time within the UAE by local rulers of the seven emirates, mostly for hunting purposes. However, in the early 90’s, public protected areas started to show up, especially within the marine environment.
- Rul Dibba (approximately 1,100 x 1810 x 760 meters)
- Dadna (approximately 350 x 190 x 240 meters)
- Al Aqa (approximately 1,535 X 480 x 300 meters)
After the implementation of these 3 MPAs, one more was proposed, but is still waiting for approval:
- Al Bidiyah (approximately 1,000 x 580 meters)
The Emiri decree No.1 of the year 1995 defines the three natural marine protected areas in the Fujairah emirate, building upon the importance of benefiting the general public and the protection of the rich marine life. According to the Articles within the decree:
Throwing anchors by any fishing, leisure or sea transportation within the MPAs is prohibited, with the exception of diving for scientific studies and research. The rule to follow in all fields is to refrain from touching the marine life i.e. corals, rocks and marine life.
Anyone who disobeys the mentioned rules above will be punished accordingly.
This decree is valid from the date of issue and each municipality official has to take the necessary actions to implement this decree.
In 2005, a local temporary ban from catching six species of fish to preserve local fish stock in Dibba – Fujairah was issued; five of the banned species being Common silver-biddy (Gerres oyena), Streaked spinefoot (Siganus javus), Flathead mullet (Mugil cephalus), Spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus) and Spinycheek grouper (Epinephelus diacanthus).
The Dibba MPA is secured by the Environment Protection and Development Department of Fujairah Municipality (EPDD), with the Dibba branch of Fujairah Municipality and the Dibba Marine Environment Research Centre (DERC) of the Ministry of Environment and Water. The EPDD is responsible for the management and conservation of natural resources within the whole Fujairah Emirate. However, the Dibba branch of Fujairah Municipality is responsible for the implementation of the law at the local level, including the patrolling and guarding of the Dibba MPA.
Dibba Municipality raised signs in Arabic and in English at all MPAs, on shore and offshore, showing clearly the area and warning people that these are marine protectorates and that it is strictly prohibited to fish by any means.
Due to their proximity from the coast, and the ease of access, some of the East Coast MPAs have become hot-spots for the national and international diving community and have increased tourism activity. Paradoxically, tourism has nowadays become a threat for these fragile habitats. Coral reefs of Dibba and Al Aqah started to show signs of degradation because of over-exploitation. Coral reefs can usually repair themselves quickly if environmental conditions are apt, and chronic disturbances are reduced. Occasional monitoring has been conducted since their creation, but currently there is no proper management plan for these MPAs. Additional research and planning is therefore crucial to protect the coral reef conservation and ensure sustainable use of the MPAs. EDA has been working on the implementation of a Management Plan for Dibba Marine Protected Areas since 2008.