Over 20 years ago a group of 12 representatives of the local diving community in Hurghada founded the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) to devise a permanent mooring system for diving boats to ensure there would not be any further damage done to the reef systems in that part of the Red Sea.
Now HEPCA is an internationally recognised NGO that works in different areas of protection and conservation, research, development and education. While their activities have spread throughout Egypt and internationally and spread over many areas, on Earth Day they are organising a big clean-up of one of the islands in front of the Hurghada coastline.
A call for supporters to join in the cleanup of Giftun Island has gone out in a newsletter, on the website and through Facebook: “We need every single pair of hands to help us collect the rubbish pile-ups that are destroying our environment. We love our Red Sea with its world-class biodiversity and want to do our part to protect it. By joining us during this unique global event, we are ensuring that a message of environmental stewardship will resonate across the planet.”
The event will start at 10am in Hurghada where boats will bring the participants to the island where both the land as well as the surrounding sea will be cleaned. Volunteers are urged to bring shoes and gloves, a hat and plenty of sunscreen because experience shows that the cleanups of the islands are hard work.
HEPCA quotes another reason why a cleanup like this is so important: “Earth Day clean-up also coincides with the beginning of turtle nesting season in the Red Sea. Turtle nesting grounds are a sensitive habitat and in places like Giftun, these precious habitats are littered with plastic garbage that has proven to be lethal to turtles. Giftun Kebir is known to be an important nesting site for critically endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). According to previous studies, it was estimated that an average of 200 female marine turtles use the north-eastern side of the island to nest.”
Hotels, dive centres and companies along other parts of the Red Sea that are planning activities and cleanups on Earth Day are invited to send descriptions and photos of the events to HEPCA so they can document everything that is being done to raise awareness and preserve the unique environment in and around the Red Sea.