coral diversity a paradise beneath the sea
Flanked by strikingly scenic
coasts and down in the shallow waters, the coral reefs of Oman
are largely uncharted territory their charm and diversity
is yet to be fully explored and enjoyed by residents and tourists
Oman holds out a paradise for coral
Some of the reef areas, although containing rare coral communities,
are faced with several environmental hazards.
Things are, however, about to change now as implementation of
the countrys National Coral Reef Management Plan-1996 is
gaining a new momentum in 2001, which as been designated as the
Year of Environment. The plan, aimed at restoring and preserving
the health and richness of coral reefs, will give a major fillip
to the popularity of Omans coral reefs.
Blessed with a vast wealth of marine
wildlife, Oman holds out a paradise for coral reef watchers.
Coral growth at Cat Island, Muscat
Opportunities for divers, snorkellers and marine biologists, who
enjoy watching coral reefs and the vast array of marine wildlife
that resides there, are being encouraged and increased.
Some of the most beautiful coral reefs sites of Oman are located
in Muscat area, Damaniyat Islands, Bandar Jissah, Bandar Khayran,
Fahal Islands, Sharqiya, Barr al Hikman, Masirah Islands, Dhofar,
Musandam and Marbadh.
Corals are not just lifeless rocks. They are animals with
a stony skeleton, explains Eng Mussallam Mubarak al Jabri,
head of Marine Pollution Management Department at the Ministry
of Regional Municipalities and Environment. Reefs are one of the
richest habitats for animal life on earth.
Muscat area is rich in
corals but the centre of diversity is at Fahal Islands. Ras
al Hamra is known for a unique coral community.
Fahal Islands in Muscat is a centre
of coral diversity
Exposed rocky shores facing north and east is the hub of soft
coral growth, while south and west facing shores contain hard
coral growth, for example at Cat Island, Cemetery Bay and Fahal
The Damaniyat Islands, about 17-km offshore, support extensive
reef development. Damaniyat reefs are typically dominated by a
few genera, but at some sites where the assemblage is mixed, coral
diversity is known to be high. Damaniyat reefs provide a diverse
habitat and feeding grounds for commercially important fish and
a high potential value to Omans tourist industry, says Mussallam,
who being an active diver has watched coral reefs from close quarters.
Sharqiya coast, which used
to be an area of luxuriant coral growth, has only a few reef formations
now. Much of the previously luxuriant coral growth was destroyed
in a storm a few years ago.
Hooni Bay in Dhofar puts up a beautiful
The fishing industry of Sharqiyah depends on coastal fish stocks,
many of which are reliant on shallow water coral environment.
Reef areas of this area are also important for turtles, whales,
dolphin and seabirds.
At the southern shores of Barr al Hikman coral watchers have found
extensive reefs covering kilometres of shallow coastal areas.
The reefs of Barr al Hikman are also known for supporting high
densities of migrating birds, coastal protection and production
of coral sand.
Masirah Islands harbour coral communities along the southwestern
shore. Some of the sheltered bays have emerged as important nursery
grounds for juvenile fish, found in high densities. Fishermen
in Masirah Islands mostly tap the much sought-after reef fish
stocks, most notably Emperors and Groupers. Emperors and Groupers,
in turn, depend on coral areas for reproduction and feeding. Large
turtle populations in Masirah also depend on reef areas.
Coral areas of Dhofar,
including Marbadh, Sadh and sheltered bays of Raaha, put up a
beautiful spectacle. Dhofar is known for highest coral diversity
in the Sultanate.
Efforts are under way to preserve
the natural richness of the coral reefs
Moreover, some fish species and reef invertebrates, in addition
to the corals of Dhofar, add to the overall biodiversity. Dhofars
coral areas are important for feeding turtles and a large number
of seabirds. The turtles and seabirds add a new dimension to the
scenic coastal beauty of the area.
Musandam offers well-developed reef communities in its eastern
bays of Jazirat Umm al Ghanam, and Khawrs such as Khawr Ghubb
Ali. Although Musandam is not known for coral diversity, some
reef species such as Pavona are unique to Musandam and therefore
hold national significance.
Importance of Musandams reef areas lies in supporting commercially
vital juvenile fish stocks. The sea around Musandam is a hub of
wildlife, including breeding seabirds, turtles and dolphins.
Thanks to Omans National Coral Reef Management Plan, extensive
efforts are under way to preserve the natural richness, variety
and quality of the countrys extensive coral reef areas.
Protecting the coral reefs
of Oman is important because reefs are one of the richest habitats
for animal life on earth.
Coral reefs are important feeding
areas for marine species
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has aptly remarked that the conservation
of the environment is the responsibility of all of us a
responsibility that knows no political boundaries.
Coral reefs are a source of many benefits to Oman: they are a
(1) nursery and feeding area for fish and other commercially important
species. (2) Provide resource for recreation and tourism. (3)
Offer coastal protection and (4) Help conservation of biological
diversity and maintenance of marine ecosystem.
Taking care of coral reefs is important because they are of value
to fisheries, tourism, recreation, coastal protection, marine
biodiversity and marine biology. Coral reefs are used by certain
fish, which come to the reefs seasonally to breed and lay their
Impacts on reefs are caused by both human and natural causes.
Some of the key management issues include littering by traders
and fishermen in Musandam, which causes pollution to the seabed.
This constrains the potential for eco-tourism. Reef damage is
also traceable to the impact of fishing activities. New methods
are being worked out by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities
and Environment to reduce the incidence of lost/abandoned fishing
gear, ropes, nets, fish traps and anchors.
Oman, undoubtedly, is emerging as a major destination for ecotourism
on the world map, thanks to the charm and diversity of its coral
reefs, scenic coasts and Sultanates deep concern for environmental
quality and cleanliness.
In the last two decades, the Sultanate has achieved an unparalleled
record on the environment. The establishment of the Council for
Conservation of the Environment and Prevention of Pollution (CCEPP)
in March 1979 was a major step.
The drafting of National Conservation Strategy in 1996 was another
milestone in environmental protection of Oman. Both marine and
air pollution are carefully and regularly monitored. The designation
of 2001 as the Year of Environment would give a further push to
environmental issues and awareness in the country.
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for errors.