COUSTEAU is proud to have contributed to the recent inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of a large area which includes two outstanding national marine parks as well as the Chab Rumi site where captain Jacques Cousteau undertook his famous life underwater experiment in 1963 : Conshelf 2.
This zone is remarkable because the coral reefs are in excellent condition and it is one of the few places in the world where we can still find healthy shark populations.
The inscribed area includes the Sanganeb atoll – a vast coral reef which is important for dolphins and sharks and is also the mating spot for a number of symbolic fish such as the Napoleonfish and the Dusky Grouper. The second national park is more northern, about 125 km away from Port Sudan and it includes the bay of Dungonab and the Mukkawar Island along with sets of islands and coral reefs which are exposed to high sea. This site is very important for sea turtle reproduction in the red sea and it harbours what is probably the largest community of the endangered dugong ( marine mammal that resembles a manatee). We also find many sharks and , in the bay, rare coral reefs which seem capable of resisting the consequences of climate change ( the can handle high temperatures and high water salinity ). Many different marine birds make their nests in this park too and aggregations of manta rays can be found seasonally.
COUSTEAU has been present in the region for over a decade and during this period we have undertaken studies which aim to create a link between protecting biodiversity and sustainable development whilst in a context of extreme poverty , especially for the fishermen of the Dungonab national park – the Sanganeb atoll is unpopulated. In 2007, more than half a century after Cousteau’s “ The world without sun” precontinent 2, COUSTEAU led an ecological and socio-economic study of the whole Sudanese coast. During this study, experts assessed the starting conditions of a coastal system in order to come up with a plan of Integrated Coastal Zone Management . More recently, after the prestigious Darwin Initiative selected our project, we focused on sharks and manta rays, to improve their protection by better understanting how these species use their natural habitat. The project also aims to help local communities to develop activities and lasting income based on eco-tourism.
Most recently , in February 2016, we organised a colloquium at UNESCO to support the inscription of these sites on the World Heritage List.
COUSTEAU has been present in this zone since 2003 and have firmly supported their candidacy for the list therefore we are extremely happy with Unesco’s decision. This exceptional area, which was chosen by the captain himself as the set for one of his most emblematic films deserves this status. We would like , more than anything , to continue to support and represent positive change on the field with our domestic and international partners. The natural diversity of the inscribed zone is remarkable yet other species and other ecosystems are in danger elsewhere. But the issues of development and reducing poverty are just as important. Attempting to do both will remain at the heart of our philosophy.