Marine debris affects the water quality of marine habitats and causes physical damage, such as abrasion or covering on coral reefs and smothering of seagrass beds. Lost fishing gear, in the form of nylon ropes, nets, and fishing lines, once entangled in coral reefs and other benthic communities, can cause significant damage, with effects that can last for many years.
Ropes and nets, twisting and moving with currents and tides, abrade, scour, break and destroy living corals. Ensnared litter may also cause increased siltation and turbidity reducing essential sunlight or smothering seagrasses. Additionally, marine debris floating great distances may act as transportation for invasive species. Marine debris drifting on ocean currents eventually becomes home to entire communities of encrusting and attached organisms.
Marine debris is not only unsightly, it’s dangerous for sea life, hazardous to human health, and costly for our economies. Marine animals become entangled in debris, and even mistake it for food - often with fatal results. Divers, swimmers, and beachgoers can be directly harmed by encounters with marine debris or its toxins. The global environmental damage caused by plastic debris alone is estimated at US$13 billion a year.
Marsa Alam Harbor - Satellite map of the Underwater Cleanup 2020© CNES Airbus
Over two days of cleanup above and underneath the surface, a group of 20 professional resident divers of Marsa Alam joined forces on the 28th and 29th of June 2020 to conduct a massive beach and underwater cleanup recovering over 20 tons of marine debris from Marsa Alam Harbor.
It's very important to highlight that Marsa Alam is considered one of the destinations in Egypt for welcoming tourists very soon. All participants did not leave the town since the lockdown in March. Even so, participants showed great commitment to the national regulations of group gatherings and social distancing and high respect for diving best practices and recommendations of the international and local concerned agencies during COVID-19. To ensure safety and to prioritize a healthy work environment, the number of divers was limited to 20 only. Members were split into small groups to conduct the cleanup underwater while other professional divers were happy to join the solid waste management team of Marsa Alam to clean up the beach area.
Collected marine debris was transferred to the solid waste management facility of Marsa Alam to be sorted and prepared for treatment or recycling. The solid waste management team did a fantastic job as usual. We don't have enough words to express our respect, gratitude, and appreciation to their hard work protecting our Red Sea by collecting the waste in coastal areas on a daily basis.
Professional divers from the mooring unit team did an outstanding job in both levels underwater and as a surface support by helping out with speed boats to handle heavy items from the surface.
The big Thank You goes to the professional divers and support members of 3Will Diving Center, Emperor Divers, TGI Diving, Colona Divers, Red Sea Diving Safari, Extra Divers, Vivasub, and the local community members who supported mostly on the beach cleanup.
Many thanks to Gen. Wasef Adly - Mayor of Marsa Alam City, Mr. Sameh Elmasry - Manager of Red Sea Protectorates Office in Marsa Alam, Mr. Elsayed, and Mr. Mostafa from the chamber of diving and watersports for their support.
Last but not least; special thanks to the leadership and people of Marsa Alam Coast Guard Intelligence and Security office for their contribution to ensure divers safety during the event and their continuous support and dedication to environmental protection.
Author: Ahmed Fouad