In Honorable Memory of Ziad Samaha
Ziad Samaha tragically passed away on 22 April 2023 following a diving accident, at the age of 42. Ziad was the IUCN Marine and Coastal Zone Management Programme Manager for the Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) for nearly ten years, until June 2022.
Ziad was a passionate conservation advocate and activist. Growing up in Lebanon, as early as 10 years old regularly went with local fishermen and helped bring in their catch. He became fascinated by the sea and marine life and had an innate understanding of the fragility and value of marine resources to people, for their sustenance, their culture and their economy. He learned to scuba dive at the age of 15, which also unlocked additional mysteries and more attachment to the sea, becoming a Dive Master and instructor even before his undergraduate degree. With like-minded friends, he founded and headed the Purple Reef, a local marine conservation and social Non-governmental Organization in Lebanon. Ziad’s also gained work experience in the private sector, were he had successfully established and led marketing departments for world class brands, before entirely dedicating his life to Planet Blue.
Ziad Samaha joined IUCN ROWA on Sep 1st 2013 and served IUCN members and partners with his knowledge and dedication for nearly a decade. Ziad was always humble and grounded in local perspectives and solutions “I don’t know everything … there is so much complexity in the work that we do that only becomes apparent after months or years on the job” -Ziad Samaha.
Ziad believed that working within a system of power structures, cultures, and individuals with varying levels of education and empowerment, all of which can be hard to relate to – had taught him that emotional enthusiasm is not enough on its own to change the world, and conservation work requires a lot of strength to carry on.
During his time with IUCN Ziad was mainly working on a specific project in south Lebanon on Sustainable Fisheries and Livelihood Support. Aside from managing the Marine and Coastal Zones Management programme as well as designing and delivering an expanded technical programme at the regional level throughout West Asia. He was also managing another programmatic project in Lebanon on Coastal Ecosystem Resilience.
“Ziad was a fantastic colleague and always had an honest and compelling case for support for community-led marine conservation. He was a worthy, global voice and champion for Lebanon, for the region, and for local conservation efforts”- Dr Hany El Shaer.
Ziad was an inspirational voice for people and nature. He was also a brother and a colleague. Our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, in Lebanon and around the world.