An Egyptian environmental group has launched a remarkable attack on diving and fishing operators in the country, claiming that many are indulging in practices that are damaging the marine environment. In a statement headed “The Gloves Are Coming Off!”, the Hurghada Environmental Protection & Conservation Association (HEPCA) has said that it is being forced to “launch campaigns, take strong legal actions and vigorously battle members of our own community”. “The frequency of the reports we are receiving concerning violations at sea by dive operators (especially safari boats) is unprecedented,” it said. “We are receiving violation reports on a weekly basis of illegal and environmentally destructive mooring, fishing and waste-dumping, even on the most pristine sites in the Egyptian Red Sea. “This distressing and… suicidal phenomenon only indicates that many operators no longer or never did feel any sense of responsibility over the resources that they depend on to survive.”
HEPCA is a non-governmental organisation, the members of which are themselves dive centres, hotels and resorts, live aboard operators and other small businesses working in the Red Sea Governorate. Damage has been caused by misuse of HEPCA’s own mooring systems, which have been installed at popular dive-sites to limit damage caused by shotlines and anchors. “Moorings that required to be reinstalled twice per year less than a decade ago in Gota Abu Ramada are now being replaced more than 16 times a year,” it said. The organisation went on to state that the cause could not be attributed “solely to the increased number of users, but more to the failure to respect and follow the simple instructions of how to use the moorings.”
HEPCA lamented that violators “clearly display a complete absence of any sense of ownership of the incredible richness of the Egyptian Red Sea’s environment, no sense of belonging to their community or any concern over its future”. Referring to enforcement agencies, HEPCA added: “Dealing with daily violations from operators based in the Red Sea is the mission of the implementing agencies and governmental authorities. “Sadly, despite the fact that these do have legal enforcement power, it has appeared obvious over the last years that they do not have the sufficient capacity to stop the blatant, rampant infringement of laws and regulations across our coast.” Requesting that witnesses of violations report them to HEPCA, the organisation said that it would “no longer stop at forwarding these violations to the relevant government institutions but will mobilise a legal team to pursue these violators in court for the destruction, abuse and rape of the resources owned by all of us and the obliteration of our collective future”.
It thanked those operators “who have maintained a high standard and have continued to comply with laws and regulations”, and asked them “to continue preserving our future as well as to keep on documenting and reporting any violations they may see”.