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Ras Mohammed National Park
محمية رأس محمد

egypt

First Listed

2018

Area
850.0km2

Why is it Green Listed?

Ras Mohamed National Park (RMNP) was established in 1983 as the first National Park in Egypt. It is located at the Southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula at the northern end of the Red Sea. It is bordered to the West by the shallow waters of the Gulf of Suez (around 300 m), and to the East by the deep waters of the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea proper (up to 2000 m). RMNP is a marine park (80%) with a coastal and terrestrial zone. The town of Sharm-El-Sheikh is 12 km away.

Due to its position, strong currents prevail throughout the year thus relatively enriching the waters. This attracts huge numbers of schools of pelagic and reef fish. RMNP contains extensive coral reefs which provide some of the best diving spots in the world. The area is noted for its extensive, luxurious, and sharply defined fringing reef platforms. Only 12 percent of the RMNP is accessible to visitors. Terrestrial tourism, some boat tours, and all camping, is managed by the local Bedouin community through a concession for traditional rights-holders, and exclusive management of tourism in Bedouin cultural zones.

About 220 hard coral species and about 120 soft coral species have been recorded, including some endemic ones. Coral cover in RMNP is an astounding 60–80%, with 20–25% on exposed fore-reef slopes, and in some places soft corals dominate up to 80%. Coral cover along the Gulf of Aqaba in general ranges from 11% to 63%, with the higher cover being within the protected area of RMNP which highlights the success of conservation efforts over the past 35 years.

“I am really proud of our achievement and most especially for all the hard-working men and women of Ras Mohammed. This shows that Egypt can achieve successful conservation and should inspire other protected areas in the country and in the region to raise their game and reach these global standards.”

Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Egyptian Minister of Environment

Key Achievements

Conservation

  • Coral reef integrity demonstrated through an average of over 80% living cover for key reef areas
  • Fish abundance and diversity is consistently high
  • Mangrove and seagrass bed habitats are maintained with good integrity
  • Seabird colonies, migratory birds (White Stork) and nesting turtles are all well conserved

Good governance

  • Inclusive governance and well-demonstrated stakeholder inclusion and satisfaction
  • Successful concession arrangement with local Bedouin community

Community benefits 

  • Significant economic benefits (Community, including Bedouin, local municipality, Sinai region, national level GDP) from tourism in RMNP as a key attraction for Sharm el-Sheik resorts
  • Fisheries outside the protected no-take RMNP area benefit from overspill and enhanced productivity, especially for artisanal fishers, including among Bedouin (such as in Naqba)

“The IUCN Green List recognition is fantastic reward for our staff, the process helped us improve and really focus on the important values of the Park. We will now put in place a new management plan that will help keep us meeting the Green List standards in the future.”

Waleed Hassan, Park manager

Site Attributes

WDPA ID

Size
850.0km2

Designation(s)
National Park

IUCN Category
II

Year Established
1983

Marine Protected Area
Yes

Marine Area
34,500 ha

Area of no-take
100%

Types of Fishery Permitted
None. In buffer zones (and adjacent Nabq MPA) limited artisanal fishery by Bedouin community by zone/season
Governance Type
State (with some co-managed concession zones with local Bedouin community)

Site Agency
EEAA

Site Manager
Waleed Hassan

Application
10.5.2018

EAGL Evaluation
10.11.2018

GL Committee Submission
12.11.18

EAGL Chair
Mohammed Zaarour

ASI Reviewer
Mounia Essefiani

Site Summary

Ras Mohamed National Park is located at the Southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula at the northern end of the Red Sea. In itself a peninsula, it is bordered to the West by the relatively shallow waters of the Gulf of Suez of around 300 m, and to the East by the deep waters of the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea proper where the water reaches depths of up to 2000 meters that compiles the beginning of an enormous cleavage in the earth’s crust that separates the, African and Eurasian continental plates.

Ras Mohammed National Park (RMNP) is classified into two parts: the marine part (part from Gulf of Suez and part from Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea proper) and the remaining representing the terrestrial part. RMNP coasts contain sandy and rocky beaches along the two gulfs. The east coast of Gulf of Suez is very wide and may exceed 1 km at some areas, which gives the chance to migratory and resident birds to rest and feed without disturbance. On the other hand the Western coast at Gulf of Aqaba is narrow and representing a typical sea cliffs and fringing coral reefs.

In the North-East of Ras Mohamed lies the world recognized town of Sharm-El-Sheikh which is about 12 km away. Directly to the South lies the vast expanse of the Red sea which is bordered to the West by the North East African coast and by the Arabian Peninsula to the East.

RMNP was declared in 1983 by the Prime Ministerial Decree 1068 including only the tip of South Sinai Peninsula of almost 96 km2 in addition to Tiran and Sanafir Islands. The park itself has been expanded in its size in 1989 by the Prime Ministerial Decree 2035 to incorporate much of the surrounding waters and territory.

The West side has two deep fissures in its center and on the Southeastern side is a sandy – called the Mangroves Island from which it is separated by a shallow channel running northwest to southeast, called the Mangroves Channel. In the North, large dunes are interspersed with outcroppings of Miocene limestone in which are embedded an astonishing number and variety of marine fossils. The peninsula itself is made up of a fossil coral reef that emerged during the Quaternary period about 75,000 years ago and as a result of changes in the coastline caused by variations in sea levels. Due to its position, strong currents prevail throughout the year thus relatively enriching the waters around it. This attracts huge numbers of schools of pelagic and reef fish. Only 12 percent of the park is accessible to visitors.

Ras Mohamed Peninsula is fringed by coral reefs which provide some of the best diving spots in the world. The reefs at Ras Mohamed are some of the most magnificent in the whole world. They are unrivalled in their beauty and diversity of life. Amongst and alongside them live thousands of colorful fish and other marine creatures, which together with the reef form a complete ecosystem. Here they seek refuge from predators and look for food. Within the crevices and caves lives the minuscule to the very large reef fish. However the coral reefs here are not just shelter and food for the different reef and pelagic fish. They are in fact living creatures which breathe, eat and reproduce. They also come in many different forms, shapes and colors ranging from the largest colonies of hard corals to the tiniest swaying soft ones.

In the north of the Red Sea where Ras Mohamed is located, coral reefs grow on the continental shelf, and which is a narrow strip here ranging from 15 to 30 km wide. The area is noted for its extensive, luxurious, and sharply defined fringing reef platforms, on either sides of Ras Mohamed-whether in the Gulf of Aqaba or that of Gulf of Suez. About 205 hard coral species and about 120 soft coral species have been recorded here, with the western side facing the Gulf of Suez having about 45 coral species, including some endemic ones. Coral cover around the islands and Ras Mohamed is an astounding 60–80%, with 20–25% on exposed fore-reef slopes, and in some places soft corals dominate up to 80%. Coral cover along the Gulf of Aqaba in general ranges from 11% to 63%, with the higher cover, of course, being at Ras Mohamed.

These reefs are made up of both fossil and live corals. The fossil reefs are those that are made up of the fossilized bodies of ancient corals which have long gone but whose bodies have fossilized together for more coral to attach to. In fact these fossil reefs can also be seen on land as the water level had dropped from previous periods.

On the whole, these reefs range in age between 15,000 to 2 million years and many of the descendants of these ancient species are still alive today among the abundant living coral colonies. The reef structure here also varies from the vertical walls where coral can be found at depths of up to 100 meters, such as at Shark Observatory, Shark Reef, and Yolanda Reef, to the very shallow secluded Sha’ab El Talaba on the northern end of Marsa Bereika.

Outcome Table

SITE INDICATORS KEY EVIDENCE LINKS:
Reef sensitivity and zoning plan 2017

1. NATURAL VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
CORAL REEF: Detailed coral reef transect monitoring at 22 key sites within RMNP, measure species diversity (n), live cover (%). Also remote sensing of 60km reef. Crown of Thorns (CoT)– RMNP protocols plus citizen science and NGO-supported M&E activities link. Fisheries diversity and abundance – studies within / out RMNP and at 22 key sites monitor invertebrates and fish, with key indicator species (ie butterfly fish) as well as studies on commercial species.
At each key site: maintain stable or increasing species diversity; live coral cover; and key indicator species (invert / vertebrates, inc. butterfly fish); or minimal decreases at specific sites where this is offset by mean increases overall across 22 sites. No CoT outbreaks beyond low density encounters
Current reef quality is in good condition with average living cover diversity of 80% in most key sites. The highest coral cover recorded in shark observatory with 90% coral cover. The condition is better than the unprotected reef sites outside the control of the MPA. Bleaching in all sites is less than c10% and coral recruitment and survival rates are significantly high. Previous CoT events have not peaked the serious impacts of 2002 – which by 2005 had already shown good recovery.
Overall coral health is very good, with minor bleaching events recovering well with high recuperation. No CoT outbreaks. Fish diversity and abundance remains high. Protection is effectively maintaining coral reef values, compared to areas adjacent and outside the MPA, and the 35 years of protection to date has clearly had a conservation impact.
BIRDS: 240 species recorded. White stork migration of key significance. Annual monitoring during migration Aug-Oct. Bird observation sites and hides in place.
Presence of all resident species – at least 80 species observed per year; white stork migrants at least 150k individuals per year, preferably above 250k. No incidence of oil-spill deaths of birds. Seabird colony area stable, ratio of species and abundance is stable.
Bird diversity remains stable in 2017. 2018 Stork migration over 180,000 individuals estimated to date. Seabird colonies stable. No oil-related bird deaths recorded.
White Stork migration numbers are stable, but lower than in previous years. More access to flyway data from Eastern Europe / Anatolia would help RMNP better determine thresholds.  
SEA TURTLES: Main beaches monitored for nesting turtles and hatchling success. Any illegal access recorded.
Green Turtle nesting occurs at each site to at least 100% of ten-year average, for a greater than 120 nests per season total; Hawksbill turtle nests at greater than 30/season for all monitored beaches.
Turtle nesting beaches in stable condition. Nesting numbers stable yet species-specific monitoring unavailable since 2011.
Three marine turtle species recorded in RMNP waters and nesting success is stable. New turtle hatchery support to begin in 2019 with project funds (GEF) 
2. ECOSYSTEM SERVICE VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
FISH PRODUCTIVITY: RMNP is a complete no-take zone. Adjacent zones have managed artisanal and commercial fisheries that benefit from RMNP productivity (reefs, mangroves, seagrass). Reef transect monitoring includes data on commercial species such as lutjanus spp.
At each key site: maintain stable or increasing key indicator species (invert / vertebrates, inc. lutjanus and holothura); or record minimal decreases where this is offset by increases overall across 22 sites.
Key commercial fisheries species numbers are stable within the RMNP. Recent studies demonstrate that connectivity with adjacent marine zones – including artisanal Bedouin fisheries in the contiguous Naqba MPA – provides overspill of key fishery resources.
RMNP demonstrates continued conservation of commercial resources for wider Red Sea-based fisheries. 
MANGROVE NURSERIES: Avicennia Marina areas are monitored remotely for coverage and through site-based assessment for health and integrity. CO2 estimates use standard methodologies.
The total area of A. Marina is stable or increasing – ie not falling below 80 hectares and increasing to 100ha by 2023 through restoration. Future estimates should provide an increase on the 0.03 Mt sink of CO postulated in 2018.
Mangrove areas are in good condition and increasing in area (5 ha since 2007).
Mangrove conservation and integrity is providing CO2 sink benefits and contributes to the health of fish and invertebrate species, as demonstrated for key natural values (4.1.1)
3. CULTURAL VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
BEDOUIN CULTURAL HERITAGE: Cultural Heritage sites (especially on RM peninsular and beaches) monitored by reps of Bedouin community as part of concession.
Bedouin custodians are satisfied that their cultural heritage areas within RMNP are a) accessible to community members b) restricted outsiders and c) maintaining integrity and good condition.
Feedback in 2018 (including through GL consultation and site-visit dialogue) demonstrates good condition of values and satisfaction of traditional owners.
Heritage sites are intact and in good condition, as reported by Bedouin custodians.
EDUCATION AND VISITOR EXPERIENCE: Number of visitors to Visitor Centre and feedback on exhibition operations; trip advisor rating for RMNP diving experiences.
At least 1,000 visits per month to centre; continued ratio of 4.5 stars or 90% positive reviews for diving tours and camping. All negative reviews are responded too / dealt with by management.
Education facilities are in good condition and operating well. Visitor feedback shows good experience = 92.5% positive (5,567 4* or 5* feedback by 1st Nov 2018)
Visitor experience and education improve with higher impacts every year between 2012 and 2018. New Visitor centre 2018.

Conservation Summary

Site visit report: compiled by the EAGL member responsible. Visit took place between 6 and 11 November 2018. Summary of evaluation and recommendations shared with EAGL ahead of their full evaluation call on 12th November.

EAGL meeting minutes 

EAGL consensus and vote: UNANIMOUS support and consensus on RMNP.


EAGL statement
The EAGL appreciated the added insight into the operations and context of Ras Mohammed National Park that was gained through the site visit. Despite challenging times associated with the Revolution, which had an impact on park operations, the site’s world class marine ecosystems appear to be healthy and evidence suggests that values are in excellent condition. Many stakeholders agreed that the park’s marine values were in excellent condition. Overall, it is proposed that the site be recommended to the IUCN Green List Committee, but with the following conditions that would help the site to maintain full compliance and continue to improve over the 5-year certificate period: Indicator 3.1.1: The park and/or Nature Conservation Sector should clarify the levels and types of plans for national parks and protected areas. It should determine how to address this challenge and risk of coherency and consistency. At a minimum, the park should have the marine management plan officially signed by the Governor and Minister of Environment, as soon as practicable, by March 31, 2019. Their signature page should include a statement to indicate the lifespan of the plan and a commitment that it will renewed at that time; Indicator 3.7.1 and 3.7.2: An enhanced research and monitoring strategy should be developed in collaboration with academic institutions, by December 31, 2020, to address:

    • Short, medium and long-term strategic directions.
    • Identification of specific research questions that are a priority to address, especially but not limited to condition of marine species and ecosystems; climate change impacts, etc.
    • Identification of issues, challenges and barriers that may be limiting a more fulsome research programme.
    • Identification of opportunities (e.g., citizen science tools).
    • Improvements to the park’s research facilities and marine vessels to ensure their safe operation.
    • Improved setting of performance measures and thresholds (including indicators 4.1.1; 4.2.1; 4.3.1).

Reviewer statement (Mounia Essefiani)
The Reviewer validates Ras Mohammed’s Green Listing process as being in conformity with the User Manual’s rules and procedures. The late involvement of the site in the GL process did not prevent the EAGL from conducting a thorough and evidence-based assessment of the site’s submitted self-assessment and MoVs, as can be seen in the Indicators verifications prior to the visit and in the site visit report. This deserves a particular mention, especially given the short period allocated before the site visit took place. The Reviewer confirms that all this has been done in full compliance with the User Manual. Recommendations made by the EAGL are transparently mentioned in the EAGL’s statement. The EAGL voted unanimously for the recommendation of the site to be added into the Green List, under the conditions stated in the EAGL statement. Based on the above-mentioned process, Marnie Bammert’s feedback and the EAGL statement following the discussion, the Reviewer confirms that the site is compliant with the User Manual’s rules and procedures and submits the site to the Green List Committee for their final decision

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