The expedition will be conducted through a partnership among Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development [of Saudi Arabia], the National Coral Reef Institute [of the United States], and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Because the Farasan Banks is an offshore coral reef system, it is fairly well protected from pollution and other stressors common to reefs near populated shorelines with fishing stress being a notable exception.
Being relatively remote, this area will present the expedition with an opportunity to assess the health of coral reefs without being confounded by stressors affecting reefs located in close proximity to urban development pressures. The research conducted during the expedition can be applied towards conservation efforts necessary to preserve coral reefs worldwide.
This expedition complements earlier phases of the Red Sea research program conducted since 2006, which focused on the Farasan Islands, Ra’s Qisbah, and the Yanbu Barrier Reef/Al Wajh Bank area. This comprehensive four-year study of the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia is producing habitat maps for coral reefs and associated shallow marine environments that can be valuable for site-specific ecosystem conservation measures such as establishment of marine protected areas.
“Our ultimate goal is to influence positive actions by resource management authorities to preserve the coral reef resources of the world since ecosystem-based management can only be effectively achieved through the knowledge gained by scientific surveys and analyses,” said HRH Prince General Khaled bin Sultan, founder and chairman of the Living Oceans Foundation.
“Additionally, the results of this comprehensive program are expected to give Saudi Arabia a distinct advantage in identifying the areas of highest biodiversity value so that the country can develop effective management plans to conserve these invaluable resources for future generations,” he added.
“This expedition to the Farasan Banks area is important because it is a geologically unique feature of the Red Sea that has not been surveyed since Cousteau was there almost six decades ago,” said Captain Phillip G. Renaud, executive director of the Living Oceans Foundation.
Upon the return of this expedition, the Living Oceans Foundation will begin preparing for its three-year Global Reef Expedition: Science Without Borders(R) program, which will begin in 2010, with the primary goals of evaluating the health and resilience of coral reef ecosystems around the world.
Additionally, the Expedition will promote international scientific literacy by engaging in a variety of marine science educational programs in each host country.
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