Rescuing the Red Sea

The Red Sea's coral and aquatic life has been devastated by huge fleets of pleasure and fishing boats that ply the waters between Hurghada and the many reefs situated within an hour of town. Until recently, there was nothing to stop captains from anchoring to the coral, or snorkellers and divers breaking off a colourful chunk to take home. But thanks to the efforts of the Hurghada Environmental Protection & Conservation Association (HEPCA), the Red Sea’s reefs are at last being protected.

Set up in 1992 by 12 of the town’s larger, more reputable dive companies, HEPCA’s programme to conserve the Red Sea’s reefs includes public-awareness campaigns, direct community action and lobbying of the Egyptian government to introduce appropriate laws. Thanks to these efforts, the whole coast south of Suez Governorate is now known as the Red Sea Protectorate. One of the programme's earliest successes was to establish a system of more than 570 mooring buoys at popular dive sites in the region to prevent boat captains dropping anchor on the coral.

While continuing in its efforts to ensure the Red Sea’s diving sites are protected, in recent years HEPCA has launched even more ambitious conservation projects. In 2009 the NGO took over responsibility for waste management in the southern Red Sea, a service which had previously been sporadic and unregulated. Now Marsa Alam and its environs have a regular door-to-door rubbish-collection service and a recycling plant. The service was judged such a success that in 2010 it was expanded to include Hurghada as well, and is now seen as a model for solid-waste management in Egypt.

For more information on safe diving practices or if you'd like to get involved with helping HEPCA protect the Red Sea by joining in on one of its beach or reef clean-ups, check the organisation’s website (www.hepca.org).