Al Qurm in Khor Kalba houses the largest gatherings of juvenile marine turtles on the east coast of the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah (EPAA) has announced that the AlQurm Protected Area in Kalba City has joined the Indian Ocean’s South-East Asian (IOSEA) Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

This makes it the second site in Sharjah after Sir Bu Nair Island Reserve, after the UAE participated in the ninth meeting of the signatory countries of the memorandum held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The meeting showcased the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority role in environmental conservation and biodiversity, emphasising its commitment to protecting various species, particularly marine turtles.

Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairperson of EPAA, emphasised its keenness to represent Sharjah at such prominent environmental meets on a global level, introducing the innovative steps and significant achievements made in this regard. She added that the Sharjah Government provides constant care and attention to the efforts of the EPAA in ensuring the success of the environmental goals it works towards.

She reported that the AlQurm Protected Area site serves as a comprehensive centre for research, education and conservation initiatives. Official classification of the area as part of the IOSEA network of sites will enhance conservation efforts in several ways. It serves as a tangible guide for policymakers on the environmental value of the site, which was also designated as a Wetland of International Importance listed under the Ramsar Convention in 2013 (Ramsar Site).

Al Suwaidi emphasised that the AlQurm Protected Area in Khor Kalba stands out as the sole habitat of mangrove trees on the coast of the Gulf of Oman in the UAE and the oldest mangrove tree forest in the region, hosting the critically endangered bird the Arabian Collared Kingfisher which is found only in this area of the world. It houses the largest gatherings of juvenile marine turtles on the east coast of the UAE where they can find their nourishment. The EPAA works to protect these marine turtles from threats through the Sharjah Strandings Response Programme.

In addition, it is considered an ideal location for feeding and nesting for over 150 species of local and migratory birds, over 90 species of crustaceans, and 100 species of fish. The Khor Kalba Mangrove Centre within the reserve serves as a comprehensive educational centre to educate the public about the habitats of mangrove trees and emphasise the importance of their conservation. It is also the only centre for the rehabilitation of marine turtles on the east coast of the UAE.