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On cetacean, research and growing tourism industry in the Red

Sea. Do your part!

Maddalena Fumagalli

Keywords: cetacean ecology, Egyptian Red Sea, tourism, HEPCA, conservation, eco-volunteer, marine
ecosystems, coastal development

The Egyptian Red Sea has become one of the most accessible and appreciated tourism destination in
the last decade. The consequences of this tourism invasion are, so far, unpredictable; nonetheless
something can be done to understand the possible effects this high exposure could lead to.

As a biologist, I strongly believe in science as tool for conservation purposes. I am persuaded that any
data, whether biological, ecological or behavioural, coming from a proper scientific project can give much
more than a nice figure with a statistical robustness. Moreover, an approach targeting to the ecosystem
as a whole is fundamental in any attempt to protect and preserve a site.

I am presently working for HEPCA, Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation

Association, a leading Egyptian NGO established in 1992 by a small group of operators pushed by the
desire and urgency to care for the Red Sea (this is how HEPCA presents itself: Caring for the Red Sea).
Since then, HEPCA get involved in many different projects: it is surprising that a single association could
successfully lead and conduct campaigns and actions such as create the largest mooring system in the
world (for those who ignore what a mooring system is, I suggest to check and manage
solid waste, shake public opinion and bring people on the beach to protest against the selling of Giftun,
one of the most beautiful island in the region, and knock Carrefour with a rapid and effective Stop Shark
Sale campaign. These are only few examples on how we are caring for the Red Sea.

HEPCA is now launching the first long-term research plan completely dedicated to cetacean
and megafauna in the water of the Southern Egyptian Red Sea. It seems incredible but, despite
its popularity, the Red Sea is still unexplored that sound like an oxymoron, isnt it? - from a scientific
point of view. Talking about dolphins, you will easily find information and advertisement about the well
known dolphin houses in the area, Samadai and Satayah, sites sold for dolphin watching and
swimming-with tours. A dedicated one- year study was conducted in Samadai Reef in 2005-2006 on
ecology and behaviour of the dolphins sighted there (see bottom of the page for an article on the case

However, there is an important lack of data on a larger scale. The classic five W questions are still
without answer:

Who - which species are present?

Where - which reefs, sites, lagoons and ecosystems are they visiting? Which are the main ecological
features describing those places? Do they show fidelity to those sites?

When - is there any seasonality in their presence? What this seasonality is due to?

Rede Verde Conservation Network Inc. BN: 845495613NP0001

York street, 8 - 1st floor Moncton, NB E1C2X9 Canada
URL : Email:
What - which activities, behaviours, stage of the life cycle they display in the region?

Why - how can we explain their presence and habits?

Furthermore, other questions remain open: Which future for them? Are human impacts major threats for
them? How can you mitigate them?

HEPCA is now undertaking a new research project to investigate the matter and try to
answer some of the questions.

The aim of the study is documenting abundance, distribution and ecology of marine mammals in the
region. Research methods will include distance sampling, passive acoustic monitoring and analysis and
methods based on the individual identification of the animals.

We are aware that conservation effort are doomed to failure when do not go over the border of the pure
scientific community. We know that only the direct involvement of the people can lead to real changes.
That is why we welcome eco-volunteers from all over the world to join us onboard the Red Sea Defender,
our research vessel, and become part of the team.

This will be an occasion to learn more about marine ecosystems and marine life while navigating and
diving in some of the few pristine areas on the Egyptian Red Sea coast, where coastal development is still
in its early stages.

Participants will be fully involved in any aspects of the life in the field, will receive a specific training and,
by the end of the expedition, will have acquired specific skills in research methods.

You have the possibility to spend 10 days with us onboard the Red Sea Defender; departures scheduled
for the summer season are the following:

Team 1 from 06 to 16 June

Team 2 from 17 to 27 June
Team 3 from 01 to 11 August
Team 4 from 12 to 22 August

The price is 1.500 Euro (travel expenses non included).

If you are interested, you can contact me at or

Feel free to write me if you have any question, doubt or curiosity about the project or the Red Sea.

I hope to see you onboard!



I will hopefully keep you updated on our adventures through RVCN, for the moment I invite you to check
the following websites:

Rede Verde Conservation Network Inc. BN: 845495613NP0001

York street, 8 - 1st floor Moncton, NB E1C2X9 Canada
URL : Email: - The site is under reconstruction, but some contents are still available - this is the diving team onboard. Have you ever heard about Monkey Diving? - In Publications download the paper Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) resting
habitat in Samadai Reef (Egypt, Red Sea) protected through tourism management published in 2009 and
written by Dr. Notarbartolo di Sciara with some of the most respected and authoritative Egyptian

Rede Verde Conservation Network Inc. BN: 845495613NP0001

York street, 8 - 1st floor Moncton, NB E1C2X9 Canada
URL : Email: