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AMMAN — The Aqaba Marine Park (AMP) is scheduled to join Jordan's network of nature reserves this year, becoming the country's first marine nature reserve, according to a consultant on coastal management and protection.
The park, located 15 kilometres from downtown Aqaba, was declared a nature reserve by the government in 1997 with the aim of protecting the marine environment from rising pollution resulting from the rapid growth of Aqaba’s population and the expansion of its industrial activities.
"The park, however, is not part of the Kingdom's network of nature reserves. The plan is to have it announced as a marine nature reserve and part of the network, thus becoming the country's first marine nature reserve," said Abdullah Abu Awali, consultant of the Coastal Management and Protection Unit at the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA).
The network features 10 nature reserves located across the Kingdom.
ASEZA is in the process of requesting that the marine park become a marine nature reserve, Abu Awali said, noting that "approving or rejecting it as a marine nature reserve" is a long process that entails the approval of the Ministry of Environment and, ultimately, the Cabinet.
"I am optimistic that the AMP will be declared as a marine nature reserve this year," Abu Awali told The Jordan Times.
Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) Executive Director Ehab Eid indicated that the AMP protects 40 per cent of the Gulf of Aqaba's marine ecology, indicating that the percentage meets the international requirements on marine conservation.
Eid highlighted the diversity of coral species in the Gulf of Aqaba, noting that the society will prepare the first guide on the corals of Aqaba, located some 330 kilometres south of the capital.
Thirteen kilometres of Aqaba’s coastline, which stretches over a total of 27 kilometres, are covered with globally diverse coral reefs, Eid said, indicating that coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba cover almost half of Aqaba’s coastline, offering 21 diving locations for the exploration of diverse, colourful and unique coral reefs.
The Gulf of Aqaba is a semi-enclosed water basin attached to the semi-enclosed Red Sea, with a length of 170km, an average width of about 15km and a maximum depth of more than 1,800 metres, according to the Royal Marine Conservation Society.
Its water is warm year round, with the average sea temperature standing at 24°C, according to the society, which indicated that Jordan’s 27km coastline represents the northernmost outcropping of coral reef in the world and tolerates a high salinity rate compared to other seas.