[Coral-List] Long term change in Eritrean reefs: past, present, future

Steffan Howe sajhowe at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 22 19:18:37 EDT 2008

Dear Listers
I have been watching with interest the discussion about Eritrean coral reefs, having worked with the ECMIB Project for which Pete Raines (and later Jerry Kemp and Alain Jeudy) was Technical Advisor. A lack of human resources was an issue with the project for many years until late 2003 when approximetaly 20 marine biology graduates from Asmara University were assigned to work with the project. It was my job to build on the training they had received at the university and eventually establish five monitoring teams (coral reefs, seagrass/seaweed, seabird/shorebird, mangroves and marine turtles) with one of those teams responsible for undertaking Rapid Ecological Assessments (including some measure of coral cover) of the Eritrean coast and islands. The aim was for each of these teams to eventually establish national monitoring programs.
The coral reef monitoring team consisted of four members and the methods we used initially were modified ReefCheck methods. It was our intention to move on to more detailed methods (such as LIT and Video transects in some areas) once the team had become more experienced with underwater surveys. I left Eritrea in 2005 but by then the coral reef team had conducted prelimnary surveys in many areas and set up permanent monitoing sites in some of the proposed MPA's (e.g. Green Island and Dissei-Madote), as well as around Massawa Island, and were planning to expand the monitoring program throughout the coast and islands. The team conducting REA had also carried out surveys along much of the coast and a number of the islands. 
By the time I left we hadn't been able to collect sufficient data to be able to paint a clear picture of the health of Eritrean reefs but the project continued until late last year and I'm assuming (and hoping) that those teams continued the expansion of the monitoring program and have collected some useful data. 
Virginie Tilot who was a consultant for the project ran some training in video transects on reefs in 2006 I believe but I am unsure of whether any monitoring sites were established. Mr Yonas Afewerki was the leader of the coral reef team and would be someone to contact about coral reef data collected over the last few years, although I have tried to contact him on a number of occasions with limited success (yonasa467 at yahoo.com). Zekeria Zekerias who is head of the College of Marine Science and Tehcnology (COMSAT) in Massawa and who also previously taught marine biology at Asmara University and did his Ph.D. on butterflyfish in the Red Sea (around the same time as Mebrahtu) would be another person to contact about reef condition (I will have to chase up his contact details).  

Steffan Howe, Ph.D.
Acting Manager - Great Australian Bight Marine Park
Department for Environment and Heritage
75 Liverpool St, Port Lincoln
South Australia 5606
Tel.    +618 8688 3172
Mob. +61 0428 117 278
Fax    +618 8688 3110
howe.steffan at saugov.sa.gov.au

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