Muscat: Plans for Oman’s economic growth to go hand-in-hand with environmental sustainability have been drawn up between the Sultanate and the United Kingdom.
Part of the UK-Gulf Marine Environment Partnership (UK-GMEP), they will be carried out by the Environment Authority, and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), the UK government’s marine environmental science advisory agency.
“This is a programme that is supported by the UK government for us to provide technical support and knowledge exchange to Oman and the GCC states for sustainable development and economic diversification of ocean and coastal resources,” said Dr Will Le Quesne, principal scientist at CEFAS.
“CEFAS has been working with the Environment Authority providing technical support and training on managing the coastal environment and coastal development to support sustainability,” he added.
“This has included carrying out ecological surveys in Bar Al Hikman alongside staff from the Environment Authority.”
One of their recent efforts towards cooperation has seen CEFAS staff provide online training over environment impact assessments to teams at the Environment Authority.
Through work funded by the UK government, preparations are also underway with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Water Resources (MAFWR).
The organisation provides evidence and advice to enable sustainable management of the seas, including issues related to climate change, sustainable fisheries, marine biodiversity conservation and pollution. It is over 100 years old and is one of the largest marine science agencies in Europe.
“CEFAS is also providing technical assistance to the Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) with a three-year regional action plan on marine climate change,” added Le Quesne.
ROPME consists of eight member countries: the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain, as well as Iraq and Iran, and was set up to enable them to work together towards protecting coastal and oceanic plant and animal life.
“This regional programme is providing state-of-the-art information for the ROPME region, including Oman, on marine climate change risks and adaptation actions, and the potential for addressing climate change through nature-based solutions,” he said.
“Oman hosted three important regional workshops as part of the Regional Action Plan before COVID-19 restricted travel in the region.”
The seas around these countries contain valuable natural resources, as well as large numbers of diverse plant and animal species.
The wetlands, waterfowl, mangroves, fish, marine mammals, turtles, corals and other forms of life are treasures of the region.
There are over twenty species of dolphin and whale, all the five subtropical species of turtles, and more than a thousand species of fish, most of which, are endemic and have a high commercial value.
With a presence in the GCC since the 1970s, the organisation has been more active in Oman and across the region over the last five years.
They opened an office in the British Embassy in Muscat in 2017, although this office is temporarily closed due to the COVID pandemic.
“As the human population grows and becomes wealthier we are placing increasing demands on the environment, and in areas we are living beyond the limits of sustainability,” Le Quesne went on to say.
“It is recognised that our wellbeing and our future is critically dependent on the environment.”