The Egyptian Government has identified the area of Salum within the Matrouh Governorate as a priority site for protection. The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) has approached IUCN for support in the designation of Salum as its first MPA in the Mediterranean Sea.
Located across the border from Libya, the long-term perspective of developing a transboundary MPA between Egypt and Libya will be addressed at a later stage, if it proves viable. This work in Egypt will serve as a basis for enhancing the network of marine protected areas in North Africa. It will also develop synergies within the Egyptian network of protected areas and build parallel approaches for similar scenarios, as well as facilitate networking and communication between similar institutions in other countries of the region.
Salum as a potential protected area
The Salum area is part of the western Mediterranean coastal region (or Western Marmarica). This area is especially unique and of urgent conservation priority because of its high natural value, and also because it is the only section of the western Mediterranean coast of Egypt which is still fairly intact and undeveloped.
Although little is known about the marine environment in the Gulf of Salum, anecdotal information suggests the occurrence of representative Mediterranean marine biota, especially those associated with rocky and sandy shorelines, and Posidonia oceanica sea grass beds. The highly endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus may occur in the neighbouring Cyrenaican coast of Libya just northwest of Egyptian waters, and is thought to find refuge in the sea cliffs of Salum. Nesting Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) have also been recorded in the area, which may provide this species with significant feeding grounds. However, there is a lack of information regarding the marine biodiversity of the Gulf of Salum, but this will be rectified in the near future.
The main threats to Salum's marine biodiversity are mostly related to urban encroachment and development. In addition, the rapid growth of fisheries, agriculture and quarrying industries, together with the growth of the local population, have dangerously increased the impacts of pollution and waste disposal.
The IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation is therefore involved in a series of coordination and development activities in collaboration with Italian and Egyptian research and governmental institutions. The specific objectives and activities of the project funded by the Italian Cooperation are:
Species assessment of marine biodiversity
- Inventory of marine biodiversity, using Underwater Visual Surveys (UVSs) and boat surveys to assess habitats, and the diversity and abundance of species.
- Selection of ecologically important areas based on rank conservation values of species and important spatial features.
- Identifying areas to be protected based on habitat maps and GIS overlays of species occurrence and distribution.
Analysis of local and national stakeholders
- Directory of all relevant stakeholders, locally and nationally, based on interviews of a cross-section of Salum residents, and meetings with government officials, resource managers, and researchers.
- Initial identification of the roles and mandate of all stakeholders in the designation and management of a potential Salum MPA.
- Assessing human use and potential socioeconomic benefits initiative.
- Assessment of ecosystem services of the Salum site and understanding the interaction between resource availability and stakeholders' uses.
- Proposing a multiple-use area that optimises both the social and ecological values of the area.
Marine Conservation Awareness campaign
Launching a public awareness and information dissemination campaign to sensitize the local people and relevant authorities to the issues and the potential importance of marine protected areas. Click here to learn more.