Sharjah International Conservation Forum Discusses Marine Stranding, Genetic Environmental Impact
The 23rd edition of the Sharjah International Conservation Forum for Arabia's Biodiversity continued its insightful discussions on crucial environmental issues, focusing on marine stranding and the impact of genetics on ecosystems.
Organised by the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah (EPAA), the event - which will conclude today - gathered over 215 environmental experts, researchers, and specialists from around the globe at Sharjah Safari.
The forum's third-day sessions explored the challenges faced by marine creatures, particularly sea snakes in the Arabian Peninsula, due to stranding incidents. Led by experienced veterinarians and environmental researchers, the discussions aimed to foster knowledge exchange and devise innovative strategies for marine life preservation.
The first session began with a comprehensive introduction to the conservation of genetic diversity, followed by a paper presented by Dr Helen Senn, which showcased a report on regional activities dedicated to marine stranding cases. The report sought to create an accurate map of the efforts of regional response teams, as well as areas lacking coverage within marine response networks. The session also discussed the stranding network and various methods to strengthen it.
Also, Fadi Yaghmour spoke about the Sharjah Strandings Response Programme, while Dr. Elise Marquis reviewed the experience of SeaWorld Research & Rescue Centre. Natassia Mannina touched on the National Aquarium project, and Timea Krisztina Szekely provided an overview of projects at Atlantis Aquarium.
Dr. Hind Al Marri shed light on marine stranding initiatives at the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi, while Barbara Langlenton commemorated 20 years of marine turtle rehabilitation with her paper on "Conservation of Marine Environment and Its Tourism." Additionally, Dr. Andrew Wilson presented findings from the Large Whale Entanglement Assessment and Response project in the Arabian Sea.
The agenda also spotlighted the habitat, behaviour, and conservation of sea snakes in the Arabian Peninsula, stressing their vital role in marine ecosystem sustainability. Experts conducted workshops on post-mortem examination methodologies and first aid protocols for sea snake encounters, enhancing participants' understanding and preparedness in dealing with such scenarios.
The second session featured discussions and presentations centred around the importance of conserving genetic diversity for species and their role in sustaining the future of endangered ecosystems in the region. It was dedicated to exploring the latest advanced endeavours and applications implemented in genetics for conservation, as highlighted by goal number 4 of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
The session began with a short introduction on the conservation of genetic diversity; then esteemed experts highlighted the importance of genetic diversity as a basic pillar in conserving biodiversity in its broadest sense, emphasising its role in ensuring the health and resilience of ecosystems.
The session also included several papers on the in-depth exploration of genetic performance cards, an assessment tool presented by experts and designed to help monitor genetic diversity. These cards can provide a comprehensive assessment of the genetic health of species, thereby guiding conservation strategies, especially regarding identifying vulnerable groups and implementing breeding and re-introduction programmes.