Coordinating efforts to prevent the transfer of invasive aquatic species in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden was at the core of a meeting held in Hurghada, Egypt, from 22 to 23 March, organised by the Secretariat of the Regional organization for the conservation of the environment in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) under the umbrella of the GloFouling Partnerships project.
The meeting brought together government representatives from PERSGA member States, namely Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, and follows earlier efforts in the region such as the regional seminar conducted in 2021 to raise awareness on the issue of ship’s biofouling as one of the main vectors for the transfer of invasive aquatic species.
PERSGA member States established a Regional Task Force and elected its Chair (Jordan) for a 2-year term. Jordan is a Lead Partnering Country of GloFouling Partnerships and has already made considerable progress at the national level, with the development of a national status assessment report and a draft national strategy.
Participants also discussed and agreed on the contents of a draft regional strategy and an action plan on biofouling management that will help harmonize efforts, identify priority activities and set a communication channel for knowledge sharing.
Regional efforts such as this one are a key to pool resources, share experience and increase the number of countries that develop national assessments and a national policy on biofouling management, in line with the IMO Biofouling Guidelines to prevent invasive aquatic species and protect their negative impacts on marine biodiversity.
The next steps in the region will be the endorsement of the draft strategy and its action plan, and the implementation of the first activities identified, followed by another meeting of the regional task force in 2023.
Biofouling is the accumulation of aquatic organisms such as micro-organisms, plants and animals on surfaces and structures immersed in or exposed to the aquatic environment.
GloFouling Partnerships is a collaboration between IMO with UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to help developing countries and Small Island Developing States to prevent the transfer of invasive species via ship biofouling. The project gives support for the implementation of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines through the use of best management practices, sharing of expertise, tools and technologies and the delivery of training courses on all aspects of biofouling on ships.
IMO was represented at the meeting by Lilia Khodjet El Khil and by Theofanis Karayannis. Ernesta Swanepoel, IMO’s consultant, facilitated the discussion.