National Marine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of Eritrea



Tesfahiwet, Mussie




The Eritrean marine and coastal zone is situated in the southern part of the Red Sea, which harbours a flora and fauna partially isolated from the Indo-Pacific Ocean in the last 10 to 20 centuries. The diversity of the Red Sea is a sub-set of what is found in the Indo-Pacific Region, and is beginning to show signs of divergence, following isolation especially amongst the multifarious species of fish. Over hundreds of species of birds, fishes and numerous genera of hard corals have been recorded by recent surveys. In addition, the Eritrean coast is inhabited by various marine turtles, cetaceans and the dugong - almost all of which are of conservation concern globally.

The marine biodiversity of Eritrea has come through the past years of liberation struggle relatively intact. As a result, the Eritrean Red Sea area remains relatively pristine, due to the lack of pressure from fishing, tourism or coastal and offshore industrial development. The coastal plains, which represent about 60% of Eritrea’s total land area, are sparsely populated with about 100,000 people scattered predominantly in the main urban areas of Assab and Massawa, and to a lesser extent in villages along the coast. With the exception of Massawa and adjacent areas, these areas were relatively unaffected during the struggle for independence.

Within the next few years, this historical condition of low human impact is likely to change rapidly. The Government of Eritrea has identified the use of the marine resources of the Red Sea as an area of major economic expansion, including increased fishing effort, tourism and exploration of oil and gas reserves. Associated with this will be an increase in urbanisation of coastal-dwelling communities (both in terms of intrinsic growth and immigration) and increases in economic activities.

Increases in commercial fishing activity, oil and gas production offshore and pollution from onshore industry and urban waste flows all represent potential threats to marine biodiversity. The National Marine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of Eritrea (BSAP), process is intended to co-ordinate with the current GEF/MoF project "Conservation management of Eritrea’s coastal, marine and island biodiversity", to ensure that appropriate safeguards are put in place to protect a natural resource with great conservation value and significant sustainable revenue-earning potential.

The NBSAP presents Eritrea’s overall policy position with respect to biodiversity and attempts to place this policy in the context of the government’s major development objectives for the next few years. In addition, the NBSAP includes a range of existing activities taking place within different sectors. Environmental activities already form a prominent part of the Government development policy – given the limited financial and human resource capacity available, the NBSAP seeks to integrate and co-ordinate these activities so as to increase their effectiveness for biodiversity conservation, rather than replace or add to them.

Eritrea is committed to taking care of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources, including coastal, marine and island (CMI) environments. A "Co-ordination, Planning and Implementation Committee" (CMI Committee) has been established with representation by MoF, MLWE, MoA, MOLG, UoA, GEF Project Team, UNDP, MICMEC, plus other co-opted national agencies.

The main activities relating to CMI biodiversity are described in the paper, according to the framework used for Terrestrial and Agro-Biodiversity within the NBSAP. This will facilitate the avoidance of synergies and duplications, while identifying gaps and potential areas of conflicts with activities identified within other national biodiversity sectors.