Ras al Khaimah mangrove
Panoramic view of mangrove forest in the United Arab Emirates Image Credit: Shutterstock

Nestled along the shores of the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, the UAE is blessed with diverse marine ecosystems and a myriad of marine species. The country’s history, culture, and economy are intricately linked with its coastal zones, making marine conservation a matter of utmost importance.

The UAE’s stunning coastlines along the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman are home to diverse marine species and ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves. The health of these ecosystems is crucial for the well-being of both the environment and the people who depend on marine resources.

However, the rapid pace of development and urbanisation has presented significant challenges to the preservation of these invaluable ecosystems.

In response, the UAE has taken proactive steps to conserve marine species, recognising the importance of safeguarding biodiversity for both present and future generations. Across all its emirates, the UAE has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to marine conservation through a range of initiatives and projects.

More op-eds by Hamed Bin Mohamed Khalifa Al Suwaidi

Region’s marine ecosystems

The waters surrounding the UAE are teeming with a rich tapestry of marine life, from vibrant coral reefs and lush seagrass beds to a variety of fish species and graceful marine mammals.

These ecosystems contribute not only to the ecological balance of the region but also to the economy through fishing, tourism, and recreation. However, the mounting coastal development, pollution, overfishing, and climate change have placed immense pressure on these delicate ecosystems.

Abu Dhabi has undertaken significant efforts to address these multifaceted challenges. The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) has been a cornerstone of its conservation strategy.

The Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2015, stands as a prime example. This reserve not only safeguards vulnerable marine species and habitats but also serves as a vital research hub for scientists to better understand and protect the region’s marine ecosystems.

UAE Coral Reef Project

Beyond the individual efforts of emirates, the UAE has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to marine conservation through nationwide projects. The “UAE Coral Reef Project” is an ambitious endeavour aimed at restoring and rehabilitating coral reefs through innovative techniques like coral farming and transplantation. Additionally, the “UAE Dolphin Monitoring Program” diligently collects data on dolphin populations and behaviour to inform conservation strategies.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is poised to be a pivotal event in the global efforts to address climate change and its impacts. Among the various topics on the COP28 agenda, marine conservation is gaining prominence as a critical component of the discussions.

For the UAE, a nation closely connected to its coastal environments, this conference offers a platform to showcase its commitment to preserving marine ecosystems and to advocate for international collaboration in tackling marine-related climate challenges.

Highlighting its commitment to sustainable fishing, the UAE can discuss its initiatives to regulate fishing practices, prevent overfishing, and reduce by-catch. This could inspire other nations to adopt similar measures, contributing to the overall health of global fish stocks.

The UAE’s mangroves, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes play a crucial role in sequestering carbon dioxide, also known as “blue carbon.” By sharing its blue carbon research and restoration efforts, the UAE can underscore the importance of these ecosystems in mitigating climate change.

COP28 is a great platform for the UAE to showcase its initiatives aimed at building climate resilience among coastal communities

Innovative solutions, enhanced policies

Addressing plastic pollution requires coordinated efforts on a global scale. The UAE can discuss its campaigns to reduce single-use plastics and innovative solutions for waste management. This could encourage international partnerships to tackle this pervasive issue.

COP28 is a great platform for the UAE to showcase its initiatives aimed at building climate resilience among coastal communities. By sharing its experiences in adapting to sea-level rise and enhancing disaster preparedness, the country can contribute to the knowledge pool for other vulnerable regions.

The UAE can use COP28 as an opportunity to announce partnerships and collaborations with international organisations, research institutions, and other nations dedicated to marine conservation. Such collaborations can enhance knowledge-sharing and accelerate progress in addressing marine conservation challenges.

The UAE’s contributions to marine conservation at COP28 have the potential to reverberate beyond its own shores. By sharing its successes, challenges, and future plans, the UAE can inspire other nations to prioritise marine conservation in their climate agendas.

Collaborative efforts and knowledge exchange forged at the conference can result in innovative solutions, enhanced policies, and a more concerted global approach to preserving the health of our oceans.

Dr. Hamed Bin Mohamed Khalifa Al Suwaidi is the Founder and President of the Al Suwaidi Foundation, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Abu Dhabi Arts Society (ADAS), and Advisory Council Member of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership