Masbat Bay Conservation
Habitat rehabilitation and artificial reefs using natural resources as a first step to conserve habitat diversity and increase attractiveness of Masbat Bay for tourism

Dahab is a popular destination for snorkelers, divers and surfers. The Masbat Bay, which is the main bay in Dahab, is used for these types of water sports, and is often being used as a training area for dive courses and novice snorkelers. Scientists from the Red Sea Environmental Centre (RSEC) in Dahab, together with volunteering biologists and students, are presently observing a human impact on the reefs and its adjacent habitats of apparently substantial magnitude (illegal fishing, building and littering in the tidal zone, environmental unfriendly diving and snorkelling practises, reef walking, etc.).

 

Importance of Masbat Bay
Masbat Bay is one of the most important areas for future tourism in Dahab. These are the only sites where entering the water, snorkelling and swimming is possible without walking over the reef flat, even with strong winds. Furthermore, Masbat Bay encloses the highly frequented and popular dive sites Lighthouse (fringing coral reef), Bannerfish area (granite rocky reefs, seagrass meadows, sandy patches), Mashraba (entering bay from south, with seagrass, sand, rocky reef formations) and a beautiful shallow patch reef (Nemo Reef).  The seagrass and sandy habitats harbour a variety of life usually not encountered in coral reef habitats e.g. Jayakar's seahorse Hippocampus jayakari, Hairy pipehorse Acentronura tentaculata and the Butterfly goby Amblygobius albimaculatus. In addition, a variety of juvenile fish feed and shelter in the seagrass beds. 

 

Purpose
The purpose of the Masbat Bay Conservation Project is to establish the diversity and abundance of organisms of different habitats in the bay. Due to the illegal fishing in the Bay and fewer observations by divers of fish targeted for food (e.g. groupers larger than 30 cm, large snappers etc.) we initiated a “food fish” monitoring. Furthermore, a study of the connectivity between coral reefs and seagrass beds will give a better understanding of the protection needed for sustainable use of these important habitats.

 

Project description
You will learn to collect data underwater using different survey techniques, analyse and interpret the data. The project will run for four weeks, during which  presentations, training, fieldwork (and laboratory work) in the following topics will be given:

  • Coral reefs (importance, threats, survey techniques)
  • Seagrass beds (importance, threats, field techniques, lab)
  • Sandy areas (importance, threats, field techniques, lab)

After each topic a small report should be written (in groups). Other small group projects will also be carried out (e.g. environmental awareness for locals and tourists, underwater clean-ups, beach clean-ups, habitat mapping of the bay and habitat rehabilitation). All you have to learn will be taught in the training during the first days. The training inlcudes as well a buyoance training for all divers.

 

Project schedule

MBC2017-I: 7. January - 11. February 2017

MBC2017-II: 18 .November - 23. December 2017

2-weeks participating possible as well.

(Date = arrival date, training starts usually one day later)

 

Project prerequisites
PADI Open Water Diver (or similar) with at least 15 dives, students of marine science or related field are desireable but not restricted to. Certain measures (small projects) may require the PADI Advanced Open Water Course (or similar). Knowledge of marine biology is an advantage. We offer Open Water Diver courses and training dives for uncertified divers. You need to arrive at least 12 days before project start.

 

Participants
Maximum number of participants for the project is 12.

 


Dateneingabe DRM

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

 
 

Price
5 weeks package includes:  40 projekt dives, airport transfers,  5 weeks accommodation, training, one day trip to Nabq protectorate (mangroves) - 910* € (Snorkeler: 440 €)

2 weeks package includes:  20 dives, airport transfers,  2 weeks accommodation, training, one day trip to Nabq protectorate (mangroves) - 750* € (Snorkeler: 350 €)

*Price is excluding diving equipment! You can rent full dive equipment (except dive computer) for 5 € (+10 % sales tax) per dive at Sinai Divers Backpackers.

 

Masbat Bay

 

Masbat Bay

Masbat Bay

 
 

Application procedure (long-term volunteers of 5 weeks or more)
Please send a short e-mail with CV to chrisvonmach(at)redsea-ec.org. We will send you confirmation and invoice as soon as possible.

  Masbat Bay
 
 

Masbat Conservation Project 2013-II, weekly report 5

In our last week we made the final survey dives at Lighthouse. In addition, we even had time for some fun dives. We also made a clean-up dive, in which we collected waste underwater. Natascha gave us a presentation of her bachelor work about the behavior of cleaner wrasses. We then devoted a dive to the study of the cleaner wrasses. We even saw a turtle and a crocodile fish! While snorkeling in the lunch break we discovered Froggy, the long-lost yellow frogfish. The last days of the project we spent with the evaluation of the obtained data and pictures and writing the final report. With this, five exciting and educational weeks of the wonderful Masbat Bay Conservation project passed by. We will remember this time with very nice memories and thank Nina Milton and the team of Sinai Divers for their support and good humor.

 

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Masbat Conservation Project 2013-II, weekly report 4

In the fourth week of the Masbat Bay Conservation project we conducted more survey dives in Mashraba and Bannerfish bay. Nina is guiding the dives in such a way, that there is always enough time to take picture underwater. The dives are great fun! The highlight of this week was our trip to Nabq, a protected area south of Dahab with many endemic plants: Acacia, legumes, succulent plants, mangroves, etc. We could even snorkel between the mangroves and admired the many juvenile fish and upside-down jellyfish. Moreover, we observed herons and osprey. Looking at the ship wreck of Maria Schroeder we got a delicious Bedouin lunch. The next day we made our first fluorescence night dive. Equipped with special lights and filters in front of the mask we discovered the bizarre life of the fluorescent creatures underwater. With this particular event an exciting week came to an end.

 

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Masbat Conservation Project 2013-II - weekly report 2

The intensive training above and underwater showed our first results. We successfully passed the fish test, learning has paid off. As a reward, we drove to a Bedouin dinner in the desert where we enjoyed delicious food and sweet tea. On the next day we did our first calibration dive. We tried to use all our previously acquired knowledge about the fish indicators and the types of substrate during the dive. It was not as easy as we had imagined it to be. We still needed some more practice before we could start with the survey dives. But first we took a fun dive at the Blue Hole where we did not have to count fish or measure substrate. On the following day we also passed the substrate test. Now we were ready for our survey dives! They ran successfully thanks to the training and Nina´s patient explanations. On the first survey dive we also discovered the rare ornate pipefish (Halicampus macrorhynchus). In addition, we were accompanied by another turtle. On the last day of this week we again had time for a fun dive, in which we explored the dive site "Islands". The time flies by so fast here, because it's great fun to dive and collect data for such a great project.

 

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All pictures by Jana Slamaj.

 

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Masbat Conservation Project 2013-II - weekly report 1

Our introduction to the project was presented by Nina Milton in the RSEC field station; it informed us about all aspects of the Masbat Bay Conservation Program. We then started training to identify the indicator fish species we need to learn to quantify fish numbers in the bay. We learnt existing and added new underwater hand signals, so that we can effectively communicate whilst diving and double check our fish identification skills. We watched another presentation identifying corals; again we need to learn these to survey and assess the underwater geography of the bay. Next we went out for the day by boat to Ras Abu Galum. We made three fun dives on the pristine dive sites located north of Dahab. We watched the final presentation about the other substrates we will find in the bay, the different sorts of algae, and again learnt hand signals to check our assessments whilst underwater. We made more training dives to see how much we have learnt and practice identifying the fish and substrates, and also made some relaxing fun dives in the bay to enjoy the area and meet the turtle.

 

MBC2013-II

MBC2013-II

All pictures by Jana Slamaj.

 
 

Masbat Bay Conservation 2013-I - fourth week

The fourth week started with a day off and an office day to process data, which accumulated in the last few days. After another day during which we conducted two survey dives, we had another day off because of bad weather conditions. To catch up with our plan after several non-planned breaks, we did 6 survey- and 2 night dives in the next 3 days. Although this was very tiring, we were rewarded with interesting sightings, for example some octopus and sea horses. Now that all transects of the project were finished, we performed some clean-up dives at the end of the week.

 

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EcoTrip to Nabq Protectorate on 30.01.2013

For a change to the survey dives we made a trip to the Nabq Protected Area. The recently fallen rain greened the wadis (dry riverbeds fallen) in a extend that is unusual for the desert. In addition, we explored the mangrove forests and their biodiversity which are essential for coastal protection. Maria Schröder, a cargo ship that ran aground right by the coast was another highlight of our trip. After a traditional Bedouin lunch, we explored the mangroves to look for the frequent "Upside Down Jellyfishes" and we were successful after a long search. This jellyfish is a bottom dwelling species that aligns its zooxanthellae containing tentacles in the direction of the light. On the way back we visited the adjacent Arak-dune system. These specially adapted trees stabilize themselves by accumulating sand and form an extensive root and branch system.

 

 

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation 2013-I - third week

The third week began with 2 days off, as our supervisor was out of town. Nevertheless, this did not stop us from diving and exploring other great dive sites around Dahab, like the famous Blue Hole and the Canyon. Some volunteers even travelled to Sharm el Sheikh for a wreck dive at the SS Thistlegorm. Later in the week we did another fluorescent night dive and some Survey Dives in the bay in which we even got to face some seahorses. A relaxing end of the third week constituted a boat trip to the dive sites Gabr-El-Bint and El Shugarrat in the far south of Dahab.

 

 

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation 2013-I - second week

At the beginning of the second week of the Masbat Bay Conservation Project, we started with another four survey dives, in one of them we even sighted a turtle. Thunderstorm and heavy rain in the night from Saturday to Sunday caused strong sediment influx in the bay, whereby the visibility became very bad and further survey dives were impossible for the moment. Because of this, we used the following days to extend our visa at El-Tur and to do a trip to the nature reserve “Nabq”, which we planned anyway. To get an impression of the condition of the reefs outside of the bay, we did two fun dives at the “Islands” a breath taking, beautiful reef southward Dahab.

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation 2013-I - first week

In the first week of Masbat Bay Conservation project, we had lectures about the current problems of the bay and about the course of the project. By identification and counting of indicator species (fish and corals) we will evaluate the current state of Masbat Bay. During identification exercises and training dives we learned to recognize species that are relevant for the health of coral reefs. A highlight was the first night dive during which we discovered a variety of sea creatures that cannot be seen during the day. Fluorescent night dives are another important part of our project. Prof. Dr. Horst Grunz provided not only the theoretical background for fluorescence under water, but also accompanied us with his self-designed and self-constructed HighTec lamps. Generally, it was a busy week during which we learned a lot about the biology of coral reefs and their protection.

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation II – Review fifth week

In the fifth week we finished the surveys in the Masbat Bay. We had examined all areas of the bay and could start the analysis of the data.
Besides we had the chance to take part in a fluorescent night dive. Here we had to put special glasses on our masks to filter the light. Instead of the usual lamps we took some torches with blue light with us. The blue light is reflected by the fluorescent organisms which glow in different colours. We could see red, orange and green fish, crabs and corals. In the beginning it was a little bit odd to dive almost blind because of the filter glasses on our masks. But we became accustomed to this and enjoyed the special adventure.
A nice ending of the Masbat Bay Conservation Project was a boat trip to El Shugarat and Gabr el Bint. During three dives we admired the beautiful corals and we saw a big swarm of Milkfish. Now we just have to analyse some data and then the project is finished.
We all had a lot of fun, advanced our diving skills and learned many things about the life in the Red Sea. The last five weeks will be memorable for all of us and some of us will certainly come back to Dahab.

 

Fluorescence

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Masbat Bay Conservation II – Review fourth week

Our fourth week in Dahab bestowed us a unique adventure. After a sunny morning a big black cloud bank appeared behind the mountains. A few minutes later it began raining cats and dogs and even hailstones fell down. After the hailstorm, Dahab was a big chaos. All houses were full of water and a lot of dirt and rubbish was washed from the wadis into the bay. In the days after we cancelled all of our survey-dives because of the bad visibility under water. A few days later most of the mud was washed away by the current and we could start again with the surveys. However we determined that a lot of corals didn´t survive the hailstorm. In spite of that disaster we continued the Masbat Bay Conservation Project and analysed the substrates and fish stocks. A few people of our group went in for a trip to the Islands and Eel Garden.   After the dives we had some office work to do, for example the Nabq field guide and the analysis of the project data.

Jessica Knoop

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation II – Review third week

We started the third week with a trip to Ras Abu Galum. This diving spot is only reachable over a camel road, so after a short car drive we had to load our diving equipment on the camels. After a ride on the camels over 1,5 h we arrived the bedouin village and enjoyed two wonderful dives. On the way back we rode again on the camels.
In the late afternoon of the next day we did a night dive, where we explored the flora and fauna at night. Highlight of this dive were the hunting lionfish, a big sea pen and a Spanish dancer.

By way of variation at the daily survey dives we went to the protected area Nabq. In the wadis (which are dried riverbeds) we learnt a lot about the life in the desert and investigated the mangroves. During a snorkel trip we observed a lot of upside down jellyfish and juvenile fish. On the beach we could marvel at the wreck of the Maria Schröder which ran aground in 1956.

  Robert Red Sea
 
 

Masbat Bay Conservation II – Review second week

We spent the second week of the Masbat Bay Conservation project mostly doing survey dives. Depending on weather and waves, these were carried out either in Mashraba or Bannerfish Bay. During the dives we optimized the survey methods, and the work became easier with each survey. Nina also showed us two dive sites outside of the Masbat Bay, Rick's Reef and Canyon Coral Garden, where we were lucky to encounter even two Napoleon wrasses at close range, one male and female. Besides the survey dives, we spent the time in the office to work on a report about artificial reefs.

 

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation II – Review first week

During the first week of the Masbat Conservation Project we learned a lot about the methods of survey dives. We practiced recognizing indicator fishes and –substrates to determine the changes in fish population and substrate composition.
This was achieved on land with pictures and applied underwater during practice dives. Furthermore we practiced how to move around during survey dives and adapt the buoyancy. Especially the exercises underwater in the buoyancy park, which consists of different obstacles and games, were a lot of fun.
After a short exam about the recognition of indicators we started some calibration dives where we practiced the method of the actual surveys. During the dives we realized that the water was very polluted, so we did some clean-up snorkeling.
The best part of the week was when two volunteers were snorkeling at the house reef and saw a Napoleon wrasse, a turtle and an eagleray.

 

 

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation - Week review 7. – 14.6.2012
During the fourth week we continued working on the project diligently. Unfortunately Brigitte and Viki already left on Sunday, so that we are only three people left. Nonetheless we are making good progress, so that we only have a few 5 meter transects left to work on.

In addition to the transects we started examining seagrass-quadrats. Therefore we measure the canopy height in 5 random places and estimate the percentage of seagrass in the quadrat. Macro organisms are also recorded. This data will be compared to previous years.

During our numerous dives we already saw a lot of rare organisms. For example we saw lots of seahorses, (ghost-) pipefishes and a free-swimming giant moray, which got cleaned by a cleaner wrasse on the way.

On our day off on Wednesday we did a fascinating dive in Eel Garden. We saw hundreds of Red Sea garden eels and lots of Broomtail wrasses.  

 

 

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation - Week review 31.05. – 07.06.12
In the beginning of the third week of the Masbat Bay Conservation Project we still spent time cementing our knowledge about fish and substrate types by doing two dives a day. Of course we also saw a lot of cool things while practicing.
Soon we began to do the first real transects (no practice). These dives were something completely different for us volunteers, yet we immediately enjoyed it, as we were able put our acquired knowledge to use and came up with results. While doing the transects, we always had two buddy teams, one monitored the fish, the other one took care of the substrate.

As we were approaching full moon, we did a few night-dives to observe the rare coral-spawning, which happens only once a year in some coral species. Unfortunately we did not observe any spawning, but we still had a lot of fun watching the underwater nightlife.
One highlight of the week was the trip to the Nabq Protected Resource Area, which is summarized in a detailed separate report.

To conclude the week, our whole crew did a dive trip by jeep, where we did wonderful dives at Canyon and the famous Blue Hole. We especially liked the entrance through “Bells” into the Blue Hole.

 

 

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Trip to Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area 6.6.2012 (Masbat Bay Conservation Project)

On Wednesday we finally did our long expected fieldtrip to Nabq. We therefore got up at an unearthly hour, jumped inside the jeep and drove at what for some seemed like a tremendous pace to our first stop the Umbrella- shaped Acacia tree. Upon our arrival there we took a closer look at the tree, searched the grounds for other brushwood or turned around stones hoping to find whatever flies, creeps or crawls. Later on a few of us climbed the nearby mountain (some more successful than others) to enjoy the impressive view of the Wadi and the sea.
Once on the bottom we went on to the beach, where we had some rest drinking Bedouin tea, watching the mangroves and the Maria Schröder ship wreck. After everyone was ready and refreshed we of course did not want to miss the chance to walk over to the wreck and cast a first hand glance on the rusty, big thing on the horizon.  This yet turned out to be easier said than done. With all the sea urchins and holes you really had to be careful where to step (of course swimming doesn’t work either when you have a camera in your hand…), so that most of us decided to turn back after half the way.  Vincent and Nese were however stubborn enough to make their way through the spines and excitedly climbed around on the Maria Schröder. Brigitte on the other hand chose to swim around a little with all her clothes on instead.
After all this heavy physical activity we were all happy to get a well deserved meal (Chicken, veggies and rice à la Hamed) and then went on to go snorkeling in the lagoon by the mangroves. We however  soon found out that this is a lot more difficult at low tide than we had thought it to be and after lying in the seagrass for some times soon decided to give up on it. We therefore got out and took a look at the mangroves from outside the water and listened to Nina telling some interesting facts.
After having seen what we wanted to see, we packed our stuff and drove to the Arak dunes to check whether the fruits are really red and the plants are really growing to the south as we had read it in the book. Having convinced ourselves of the accuracy of the literature we set off on our way back home.
So all in all it was a great day with many impressive landscapes and as always a lot of fun.

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation Project - Second week 24.-31.5.2012

At the beginning of the second week Isabelle, Brigitte and Viktoria arrived! The RSEC-house is now quite busy and living there together is working great.

The volunteer group is now complete, so we started with the preparation of the Masbat Bay Conservation Project, on which we were then working on the whole week. The preparation included informative presentations from Nina about the Masbat Bay and its inhabitants and substrates, some of which we had to be able to identify. To practise this we did many interesting dives, where we worked with transects of 20 m. There we saw a lot of awesome indicator fishes and many other marine organisms like turtles, sepias, blue spotted stingray, seahorses (!!!), napoleon wrasse etc.

Beside the Masbat Bay Conservation Project we had a meeting with a school class. Corinne, Nese and Vincent made a presentation and discussed some aspects of the protection of reef ecosystems in a playful way with them. The highlight was snorkelling with the 6 to 11 years old children in the Masbat Bay. Now we are looking forward to on the transect work during the next few weeks. Because it is now the time of the year where you can observe mass coral spawning, we will do some night dives the following days and hope to be lucky enough to see it.

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation Project - First week 18.-24.5.12

On the first day of this years’ Masbat Bay Conservation Project the recently arrived volunteers passed a check-dive.  After being back up on the surface, Nina introduced us to the project.

During the next week we did a few clean-up dives. There is a lot of rubbish that gets blown into the sea from the numerous restaurants on the shore. After these dives we always carried out large amounts of rubbish.

Another dive had the purpose to look for the Blue-striped Snapper and Painted Sweetlips, which are important indicators for overfishing. We came across one Painted Sweetlip and numerous Snappers.

The camel ride to Abu Galum was probably the highlight of the week. Next to enjoying very nice reef-formations, the camel riding was a unique experience.

We are now looking forward to the arrival of the last few participants to really get started with the project.

 

 

 

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March, 4th, 2011 - UW- and Beach Clean Up

Today, the RSEC-Team, accompanied by some Sinai Divers Backpackers customers, has completed an underwater clean-up in the area of Masbat Bay (Bannerfish and Mashraba).
The complex ecosystem is suffering from different anthropogenic causes – corals are not the only victims, fleshy algae are covering whole seagrass areas, some indicator fish is not found in Masbat Bay anymore and major animals such as sharks and turtles have become extraordinary rare.
Not only the illegal fishing and old sewage systems are destroying the ecosystem, garbage – thrown away into the sea by locals and by tourists – is damaging the area as well.
The lack of consciousness about their own unique ecosystem is one of the major problems in the local society – old fishing nets, carpets, cigarette butts and all kinds of plastic bags are thrown away into the sea.
The results are quite obvious – the toxins are eaten by fish and remain in the food web, nets are a definite death to most fish that crosses them, and the covering plastic bags cover the light-dependent corals to death.

For the clean-up dive, we divided in buddy pairs and got large-volume bags for collecting, scissors were taken as well to cut nets around corals. The dive was about 50 minutes, while we made our way from Bannerfish Bay to Mashraba, we have collected lots of plastic bottles, cans, cigarette packages and endless butts, even big carpets and pillows were there, but too big to carry them.
In the end, every participant could bring an whole lot of garbage back to the diving center, much more than we would realize on a fun dive, finally it was a good feeling to be able to do something for such a place, that definitely should keep it’s fascination for the future

Today’s afternoon was Friday’s big clean-up in Dahab, a big event that will take place, in different areas of Dahab, every Friday.
Volunteers for the clean-up had to meet at Assalah at 01.30 pm to help clean Dahab of all the garbage covering the streets. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the meeting place, that there were so many people joining the clean-up, both Egyptians and foreigners.

Then another major question came to every RSEC members’ mind: what about the organization? But it appears that, though we were numerous, this event was quite well organized. People formed groups, and helped by some organizers, dispersed themselves to collect trash as efficiently as possible. People had come with gloves and some of them with plastic bags. But plastic bags were also provided for those who had none. Some people had shovels and rakes, which proved to be very much useful. There was also a loader and several camions to collect plastics bags already full. And even water, and biscuits were distributed to the participants.

Nevertheless, it was hard work with the sun heating hard, the wind blowing and throwing dust in your eyes and there were much to be done. In every corner, Dahab itself seemed to have turned into a dechetery. Somehow, one Egyptian sentence, before the beginning of the event, was not so far from reality « Instead of cleaning Dahab you should clean yourself », though I think it meant more, that we should stop taking Dahab for a bin and stop throwing everything away in the street rather than cleaning Dahab once a while.

As we had finish the clean-up and were going back to the station, I was actually surprised to see that many people were cleaning the streets and sweeping in front of their shops or restaurants… and, though much work would have been needed, the streets did look much better after the clean-up than before. As we can say, unity makes strength, so if everybody do its share of one work, everything is possible.

All in all, though it was hard work, I reckon this clean-up had to be done and I will join Friday next cleaning with pleasure and invite everybody living in Dahab to join as well.

 

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  Masbat Bay Conservation - November 2010

Two weeks ago we started with the Masbat Bay Conservation Project. We arrived here by taxi in the new RSEC-headquarters-camp! Everything is nearly brand new. In the court we relax in the evening and we feel very cozy. During the first days ...we had some presentations about the method and aims of this project. And of course we had to learn all the fish indicators and different kinds of substrate. During several dives we had the possibility to practice a lot and even if we had some problems with our transect-line we managed some test-transects. Few days ago we had to demonstrate our ability to distinguish the different fish species and kinds of substrate. We are quite sure that we all passed the tests and hope that we can start with our surveys soon.
During the last dives we had a closer look at the algae and seagrass in the Bay. We took some photographs of different kinds of algae and seagrass so that we were able to determine them later in the office. The most common seagrass here in Masbat Bay is Halophila stipulacea and in-between we found some Thalassodendron ciliatum and Halophila decipiens.
Yesterday we started with the fish and substrate surveys. After some primarily problems we now manage to do three transects in one dive. And with some extra time and a closer look in every corner we also found some ghost pipehorses, double-ended pipefishes and two very good camouflaged little dragonfishes. (The devil is in detail!)
The Masbat Bay includes a large number of different habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass areas and sand/rubble areas. These areas are very important habitats for manifold life forms. Seagrass stabilize the sediments so that the local erosion in the bay is relatively stable and also leads to a rich infaunal community. The large seagrass areas establish a habitat which is completely different in ecological conditions compared to sandy soils. In the seagrass you can find a lot of biomass resulting from the habitat and hiding-places for many juvenile fishes. Special and not so common fishes are living in the Masbat Bay seagrass areas like the Jayakar’s seahorse, Hairy pygmy pipehorse, Robust ghost pipefish and the Tailspot goby. Furthermore seagrass meadows are among the most productive ecosystems of the oceans. The aim of monitoring the seagrass is to find possible (seasonal) changes in seagrass abundance and species composition.
Similar to the seagrass survey we analyze the long term and seasonal changes of the algae accretion. An increase in algae abundance may be an indicator of eutrophication caused by nutrient input or an indirect indicator for absence of herbivorous fish, which might be affected by overfishing in the local area.
Other threats are altering of coastline like building in the tidal zone, diving and snorkeling tourism. Therefore a long term study is necessary to assess the changes in habitats and marine life.

 

 

 

 

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Masbat Bay Conservation - March 2010

Hooray! Having finished most of the substrate and fish transects, we finally started the sea grass monitoring today. For this part of our project, we constructed several one by one meter quadrates that were laid out at depths of twenty, fifteen and ten meters to the left of Bannerfish Bay. Within the quadrates we will monitor the percentage of cover, the species of sea grass, canopy height and macro fauna. The quadrates will be part of a long-term monitoring, making them a PERMANENT installation on the seagrass in Masbat Bay. We would like to ask you not to touch or move the quadrates in any way, since it would affect the accuracy of the data we collect!
Seagrasses are in global decline, with more than thirty thousand square kilometers lost during recent decades. The main cause is human disturbance, most notably eutrophication, mechanical destruction of habitat, and overfishing. Excessive input of nutrients is directly toxic to seagrasses, but most importantly, it stimulates the growth of epiphytic and free-floating algae. Their abundance weakens the sunlight, reducing the photosynthesis that nourishes the seagrass and thus reducing primary production.
Seagrass beds are highly diverse and productive ecosystems - even though they may not look like it at first glance. They can harbor hundreds of associated species from all phyla, for example juvenile and adult fish, epiphytic and free-living algae, mollusks, bristle worms, and nematodes. Few species were originally considered to feed directly on seagrass leaves, but scientific reviews and improved working methods have shown that seagrass herbivory is a highly important link in the food chain, with hundreds of species feeding on seagrasses worldwide, including green turtles, dugongs, manatees, fish, geese, swans, sea urchins and crabs.
By monitoring the changes within the quadrates, we are trying gain more knowledge of the anthropogenic and natural impacts on the ecosystem and work towards its protection. We would really appreciate, if you could refrain from moving, touching or changing the position of the quadrates in any way, so that we can establish a permanent observation of this sensitive environment!

take a look at our videos below as well!

 

MBC2010

MBC2010

MBC2010

 
 

Trip to Nabq protectorate on 10.3.2010 with Volunteers of this project

Normally our primary work takes place at Masbat Bay, right in front of beautiful Dahab, but after a week or so we were also eager to explore some of the surrounding area. Organized by Chris and Nina, our daytrip to Nabq, a protected reserve located a mere hour’s drive to the south of Dahab, provided a great opportunity to see some more of the countryside and exceeded every expectation we might have had that day.

After putting together our snorkeling gear, our first stop on the drive through the desert was at a small patch of trees that have been known to harbor venomous snakes and stinging scorpions. Even after turning over every rock in the area, (un)fortunately none of them could be discovered. However, just before leaving we were rewarded for our patience by the sight of a beautifully colored lizard that stayed put on a rocks and posed professionally for our cameras.

Our next stop were the dunes in which nothing too alive could be found, but due to the recent rain we spotted the tracks of a desert fox on some dried-up sand tiles and admired the plants that are able to grow in such a harsh environment. Since the prevailing winds come from the north, plants such as Limonium axilare and Nitraria retusa consistently get covered with sand on their northern side and therefore - instead of growing in height - extend their branches just above the ground towards the south. Sand is accumulated on the opposite side and therefore most of the small dunes only exist, because those amazing plants are able to deal with the high salinity and little fresh water supply.

Escaping from high noon heat, the visitor centre proved to be a good retreat and – even though it offered little insight into the protected area which we hadn’t been briefed on already – gave us some interesting information about the desert’s inhabitants. Did you know that there are still hyenas living in Sinai, and that the last leopard spot in the area was more than fifty years ago, effectively making it an extinct species? Well, we certainly didn`t.

At this point it wouldn’t hurt to give you a little overview of where we actually are, geographically speaking. Having stopped in the desert for the lizard, we had moved on towards the coast and into the dunes, with the visitor centre close to the sea and right in front a shipwreck which astonishes with its rusty magnificence and is surrounded by pristine blue water, providing the occasional diver with a not-too-crowded and attractive dive site. However, getting there would have meant walking over the reef flat, and that of course is not an option, so we drove north to our final stop for the day – an area along the coast that features one of the northernmost stands of mangroves, consisting exclusively of Avicenna marina. Mangroves on the Red Sea grow under extreme conditions of high salinity and low winter temperatures. Some of the mangroves around Nabq have adapted to this harsh environment by becoming completely terrestrial , now forming part of the coastal marsh and dune vegetation, having lost their aerial roots altogether. However, since we had taken our snorkel gear, the land based trees were not of the greatest interest – after all, mangroves form an important and sensitive ecosystem, providing an ideal environment for young fish and invertebrates.

To explore those shallow water nurseries we set up our last camp at a beautiful beach hut that provided us with a shady palm leaf roof and a couple of chilled-out hammocks, all looked after by a very forthcoming Bedouin, who also made us some great food for after the snorkel session. And then we went into the water – usually one might think of being in the mangroves as a very muddy affair, but that was far from the truth. Swimming around two mangrove stands proved to be an exciting and entertaining lesson – so much life! After exploring a forest of upside-down jellyfish in various colors (including a very confused upside-down upside-down individual) , most of them sitting on the ground supplying their zooxanthellae with the much needed sunlight, we quickly found several gobies and their little shrimp fellows, living in a mutually beneficial relationship. The shrimp maintains a burrow in the sand in which both the shrimp and the goby live. The shrimp has poor eyesight compared to the goby, but if it sees or feels the goby suddenly swim into the burrow, it will follow. The goby and shrimp keep in contact with each other, the shrimp using its antennae, and the goby flicking the shrimp with its tail when alarmed. Each party gains from this relationship: the shrimp gets a warning of approaching danger, and the goby gets a safe home and a place to lay its eggs in. And then things just went crazy – batfish, boxfish, hermit crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, juvenile fish of countless species, moray eels… even a Hexbranchus sanguinis, a Spanish Dancer, completely exhausted from just laying a pile off eggs and resting under a massive sea urchin. We must have stayed in the water for over two hours, appreciating all these stunning marine organisms, but all too soon it was time to go. After having some food, we chilled out and admired the blue waters, the desert and the high mountains from our shady palm hut refuge– a magnificent sight that cannot ever be caught on camera and much less put into words.

As already mentioned, this trip exceeded all our expectations and we did not only enjoy the extraordinary nature, but also learned a great deal about it – not from a textbook or a presentation, but through an experience we will remember for a long time. If you ever have the opportunity to visit and explore Nabq, by all means – do it!

by Eike Steinig

 

Nabq

Nabq

Nabq

Nabq

Nabq

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Masbat Bay Conservation - Clean Ups after the storm & wadi flood this year

Coral reefs and seagrass beds are fragile ecosystems. Their delicate balance can easily be destroyed, particularly through anthropogenic influences – including rubbish and all sorts of things that just don’t belong in the water. Plastic is found everywhere – unfortunately it takes a small eternity to disintegrate. The plastic constricts animals’ movements or kills through starvation, exhaustion, or infection from deep wounds caused by the tightening material. The animals may starve to death, because the plastic clogs their intestines thereby preventing them from obtaining vital nutrients. When plastic film and other debris settle on the bottom, it can suffocate immobile plants and animals. In areas with some currents, such as coral reefs, debris can wrap around living coral, smothering the animals and breaking up their coralline structures. The impact on the ecosystem is terrifying, and this is only a one part of what can be found down there. Moreover, who would like to dive through a sea of trash and rubbish?  Imagine coming to your favorite chill-out spot and everything is covered in filthy garbage – well, that’s what it is like in some places of the bay, especially on the sea grass beds close to the main promenade.
As part of the Masbat Bay Conservation Project, we try to organize a clean-up every Friday. This time we collected four rice-bags of garbage ranging from cables, pipes, carpets and innumerable pieces of plastic to cigarette butts, plastic bags, empty cans and even a sunshade umbrella, which we couldn’t take up due to its size - in only forty five minutes! Also, extensive coral damage and breakage was observed. In many places, rubbish got entangled in the corals, reducing the amount of sunlight for their symbiotic algae, causing the death of the coral and other related organisms.
We would like to encourage all dive centers in and around Dahab to support our efforts by organizing their own clean-ups and initiate other measures to keep Masbat Bay as clean as possible – not only for its reputation as a unique dive site, but also to minimize our destructive impact on its sensitive environment!

 

 

 

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MBC

MBC