Remembering Ziad Samaha: a passionate and tireless fighter for vibrant coasts and communities in the Mediterranean
IUCN mourns an Ocean Champion.
It is with deep sorrow that IUCN announces the untimely passing of Ziad Samaha, a stellar ocean champion, who dedicated his life to defending the marine environment of his beloved Mediterranean Sea. Ziad died on April 21st, 2023 in a tragic diving accident off the coast of Italy.
“We have lost a colleague whose life centred around marine conservation and stewardship. Ziad was a hands-on conservationist who cared little about prestige but all the more about doing the right thing. He particularly cared about conservation strategies that empowered artisanal fishing communities. He was devoted to our common cause, had a generous heart and a wonderful sense of humour. Ziad was truly one of a kind. His passing is a tremendous loss to the conservation community in the Mediterranean. Many of us also mourn a very dear friend who will be sadly missed.
Imèn Meliane, IUCN Councillor and Vice President
“Ziad worked tirelessly, championing shark conservation and sustainable fisheries management. He fought against plastic and marine litter within and outside of his work, always with a smile, and he inspired others to care for the ocean. I will remember him for his everlasting passion and dedication to protect marine life while ensuring thriving coastal communities in Lebanon and beyond. We have a responsibility to honour his important legacy by continuing his work the best we can.”
Minna Epps, Head, IUCN Ocean, Centre for Conservation Action
Ziad Samaha started working for IUCN in 2013, focusing on marine and coastal issues based in Beirut, Lebanon, and leading several initiatives in the Eastern Mediterranean region. He worked extensively on supporting the development of marine protected areas in Lebanon and in the eastern Mediterranean.
His numerous achievements included the development of programmes to fight invasive species and pioneering work on plastic pollution in the region. Ziad was particularly apt at building partnerships and collaborated closely with various actors across the region, in particular the Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre (SPA/RAC) of the United Nations Environment Programme / Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP).
Prior to joining IUCN he worked on devising Shark Biodiversity Management strategies and sustainable fisheries management.
Ziad established the Purple Reef Organisation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) for the protection and conservation of Lebanon’s coastal waters. His vision was to foster environmental consciousness and awareness in the coastal and fishing communities for an active understanding of their responsibility with regards to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. His mission with Purple Reef was to advocate for regulations that advance effective protection of existing marine reserves, as well as develop sustainable fisheries beyond the reserves.
As a very experienced diver and also a nitrox diving instructor, his early career included working as a nature guide and scuba diver instructor. He was also a member of DAN Europe.
Ziad worked with IUCN until June 2022 and was most recently employed as a consultant with the FAO’s General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.
Taking time to celebrate the life of a gifted colleague who left us mid-career and in the middle of life, we invite you in the comments below to share fond memories and recall stories of how Ziad made a difference to the lives of others.
Please feel free to reflect on your own experience and memory of Ziad. We we will make this available to his family and friends to let them know how he touched the lives and work of those of us who had the privilege to work with him.