Our friend’s and neighbours in Bahrain are conserving Bahrain’s oyster beds

January 15, 2017

The Arabian Gulf, along which Abu Dhabi is situated, is beautiful and full of wildlife. Whale Sharks, Bottle-nose dolphin, coral reef, seagrass, oh … and dugong are abundant. It sits in remarkable contrast to the arid sand and mountain deserts found inland.

Not too long ago (the UAE was only founded in 1972 and oil first discovered in the 1950s) people moved between the deserts and the sea coast to sustain themselves. This migration was influenced by seasons, water availability and food sources. Deserts and mountains provided lower humidity, more plentiful water and dates. The seas provided fish and pearl oysters.

The pearling industry thrived until oil took over the local economy and Japan perfected pearl cultivation. The pearl oysters are still here, though more limited in number due to coastal development. The way of life has declined, too.

The nudibranch Gonibranchus annulatus adds vivid colors to the Pearling Protected Area. (c) Abdulkader Kamis

Yet, local communities are beginning to revive pearling in the Arabian Gulf. And this is promising for the environment. Pearls require clean water and what’s good for pearls is good for seagrass and dugong and dophin and whale shark … you get the point.

The brain corals (Favia spp.) are common in the Pearling Protected Area. (c) Abdulqader Khamis.

Abu Dhabi is now cultivating pearls and local ecotourism efforts are taking visitors on pearling expeditions. Its also happening nearby Bahrain – an island nation west of Abu Dhabi, off the coast of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

UN Environment Regional Office for West Asia (UNEP ROWA) in Bahrain is working to establish and manage marine protected areas in historically significant pearling sites. The pearls in Bahrain are unique because the oysters that produce them grow in where freshwater percolates from the seafloor. The bubbles of freshwater entering the sea create a unique and beautiful pearl.

But don’t listen to us. You can read more about the fine work of our neighbor and Supporting Partner here: