The Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region ecosystem supports a rich biological diversity with a distinct high proportion of endemism. Several locations and species have global conservation merit, e.g. Socotra Archipelago and the coral reef in the northern and central parts of the Red Sea.
The Red Sea is approximately 360 km across from east to west at its widest point and is about 1,930 km in length from north to south. It has a total surface area of 438,000 km2. The Gulf of Aden is approximately 350 km across from north to south at its widest point and is about 1,260 km from east to west. It has a total surface area of 410,000 km2 (PERSGA 2006). Rapid coastal development associated with growing human usage of coastal/ marine resources, and the ever rising maritime activities through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as a main east-west maritime trading route, constitute the main challenges to protection and conservation of marine environment in the region.
Major threats to the environment and coastal/ marine resources include habitat destruction; non-sustainable use of living marine resources; navigation risks and risks from petroleum production and transport; urban and industrial hotspots; and rapid expansion of coastal tourism. Other concerns may include the illegal disposal of pollutants by transiting vessels (GLADSTONE et al. 1999, UNEP 2006, PERSGA 2006).
| The Action Plan for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden was established in 1982 and later revised in 1995 and 2005. In addition, the PRTSGA member states adopted the Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Environment (Jeddah Convention) and the attached Protocol concerning Regional Cooperation in Combating Pollution by Oil and other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency in 1982, which entered into force in 1985.
Two additional protocols were adopted in 2005 concerning protection form land-based activities and conservation of marine biodiversity- establishment of a regional network of protected areas. More recently another protocol concerning facilitation of movement of personnel and equipment during emergency was adopted in 2009.
The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA), established in September 1995, is the coordinating body and is involved in the implementation of the Regional Convention and Protocols, and the Action Plan. PERSGA also has the responsibility for the developing and implementation of the GEF supported, MEAs joined capacity building projects such as Strategic Action Program (SAP).
The regional approach addressing marine environment started in 1974 when the Regional Program for the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden was launched by ALECSO. This paved the way for signing the Regional Convention (Jeddah Convention) in 1982 by PERSGA member States including Djibouti, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (Fig 1). The collective regional approach has considerably enhanced since 1995 with the establishment of the regional organization, PERSGA, which executes regional program and projects supporting implementation of Jeddah Convention with funding from the member states and regional/ international donors (PERSGA 2006).