The Red Sea’s ecosystem is under threat from pollution and Egyptians refusing to accept there is an environmental problem
Coral reefs in the Red Sea are under threat from oil spills and plastic waste. Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images
The Red Sea is facing a crisis that could see much of its wonderful marine life cease to exist. Continued polluting of the water, constant oil spillage from offshore rigs and a lack of awareness in Egypt and around the region about the importance of maintaining vital ecosystems all contribute to the threat.
A few travellers passing through Cairo earlier this month sent me an email describing their disappointment at the diving they experienced off Egypt’s top resort, Sharm el-Sheikh. What they saw was “completely a different scene” from their first visit in 2004. “The coral was turning grey and dying,” they said.
Over and over I have heard stories from divers about the decaying state of the Red Sea’s coral reefs. It is unfortunate, but true. No longer is the Red Sea a pristine location to witness the spectacle of marine life and coral reefs. One of the main causes is the constant pouring of waste from hotels along the coastal areas, but the tourism industry more generally has done further harm by pumping chemicals and other waste products into the sea. Resolving these problems is proving extremely difficult.
Not only are coral reefs under threat, but other marine life, too. Offshore oil rigs have been in the Red Sea waters for decades, but little has been done to ensure the equipment is up to date. These rigs stream a constant pool of oil into the sea. Ahmed el-Droubi of the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency (Hepca) told me earlier this year that much of the dolphin population has migrated further and further south as a result.