THE RED SEA
Al-Baḥr Al-Aḥmar البحر الأحمر
Red Sea, Arabic Al-Baḥr Al-Aḥmar, is a narrow strip of water extending north west for about 1,200 miles (1,930 km) from the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and then with the Arabian Sea. Its maximum width is 190 miles, its greatest depth 9,974 feet (3,040 meters), and its area approximately 174,000 square miles (450,000 square km).
The Red Sea is one of the first large bodies of water mentioned in recorded history. It was important in early Egyptian maritime commerce (2000 B.C.E.) and was used as a water route to India by about 1000 B.C.E. It is believed that it was reasonably well-charted by 1500 B.C.E., because at that time Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt sailed its length. Later the Phoenicians explored its shores during their circumnavigatory exploration of Africa in about 600 B.C.E. Shallow canals were dug between the Nile and the Red Sea before the 1st century C.E. but were later abandoned. A deep canal between the Mediterranean and Red seas was first suggested about 800 C.E. by the caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd, but it was not until 1869 that the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps oversaw the completion of the Suez Canal connecting the two seas.
The Red Sea has a number of unique marine habitats, including sea grass beds, saltpans, mangroves, coral reefs and saltmarshes. The Red Sea Project aims to protect the Red Sea's natural resources from destruction and to maintain respect for the ecological, geomorphologic, sacred or aesthetic attributes which warrants designation.
Major threats to the environment and coastal/marine resources include habitat destruction, non-sustainable use of living marine resources, navigation risks and risks from petroleum production and transport, urban and industrial hotspots, and rapid expansion of coastal tourism. Other concerns may include the illegal disposal of pollutants by transiting vessels (GLADSTONE et al. 1999, UNEP 2006, PERSGA 2006).
The UN Action Plan for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden was established in 1982 and later revised in 1995 and 2005. In addition, the PRTSGA member states adopted the Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Environment (Jeddah Convention) and the attached Protocol concerning Regional Cooperation in Combating Pollution by Oil and other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency in 1982, which entered into force in 1985.
The regional approach addressing marine environment started in 1974 when the Regional Program for the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden was launched by ALECSO. This paved the way for signing the Regional Convention (Jeddah Convention) in 1982 by PERSGA member States including Djibouti, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (UNEP).