Eritrea ’94

Mike Morrison

The aim of the expedition was to conduct a baseline marine survey of the southern part of the archipelago, to identify primary marine habitat type and their main constituent genera. This information was used to establish two fixed long term monitoring transects.

Project update: 21/8/96. A combined team of twenty divers from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), Eritrea completed a marine survey of the southern Dehalak Islands during August and September 1994. Aiming to actively involve Eritrean counterparts and provide information of immediate benefit to the people of Eritrea, the team’s objectives were to provide qualitative ground truth information on the areas of the islands identified from satellite imagery, gather data on the primary sub littoral and coastal habitats, provide training in submarine surveying techniques, and establish two long term monitoring sites. The project’s preliminary report indicated that 10 islands had been visited with a total of 320 hours of underwater surveys. Coral assemblages were examined and found to be growing on fossil reef rather than on recent coral accretion. Areas of high biodiversity were found and a list of 39 coral genera and 40 families of fish were identified. Pending detailed analysis of data gathered there were some areas that did warrant obvious attention for further work in the area, such as repeated surveys of the fixed transects at Dur Ghella and Shumma, ideally at 6 month intervals in order to gain an understanding of seasonal variation. The project makes the suggestion that similar survey work be applied to the northern and eastern islands of the Dehalak Archipelago using comparable but adapted methodology. In order to evaluate the data accumulated the project team planned to wait until 1996 before implementing the next phase of their project. (C. Hillman in litt. 1998)