Farasan Banks Expedition Ready to Launch

31 March 2009 | News story

From April 4 – 28, 2009, a four-year collaborative coral reef research program along the Red Sea Coast of Saudi Arabia will be completed with an expedition to the Farasan Banks.

The research is an assessment of biodiversity done in partnership with Khaled bin Sultan Living Ocean Foundation, the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (of Saudi Arabia), the National Coral Reef Institute (of the United States) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The expedition will collect data that will be used to develop resource management plans, identify areas of the highest biodiversity and contribute to knowledge to establish marine protected areas. They will complete in situ groundtruthing of the major benthic habitat features to calibrate Quickbird satellite imagery to create high resolution habitat maps. Additionally, underwater assessments of the diversity, abundance and population structure of reef fishes, corals, and other invertebrates will be gathered in order to assess the health and resilience of the ecosystem.

This expedition is the final phase of a four-year study of the Red Sea Coast including Ra’s Quisbah, and the Yanbu Barrier Reef/Al Wajh Bank area. “This expedition to the Farsan Banks area is important because it is a geologically unique feature of the Red Sea that has not been surveyed since Cousteau was there almost six decades ago,” said Captain Philip G. Renaud, executive director of the Living Oceans Foundation.

The Farsan Banks is a unique offshore coral reef system because it is well protected from pollution and lacking in common fishing stressors. The Farasan Banks is consists of pinnacles that reach up from the seabed at over 1000 feet and deep water lagoons that may contain lush coral formations. Cousteau described this area in his book The Living Sea as: "The wildest of all the reef complexes in the Red Sea … 350 miles long and thirty miles wide …. This demented masterpiece of outcrops, shoals, foaming reefs, and other lurking ship-breakers was created by societies of minute animals that have changed the aspect of our planet far more than man has yet been able to do."