The Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve is situated west of Abu Dhabi Island, and is home to important marine and coastal ecosystems including sea grass beds, coral reefs and mangroves. The Reserve also hosts 60% of the second largest population of dugongs in the world. Marawah is also of great cultural and archaeological significance in the UAE as more than 20 sites dating back to the Stone Age have been discovered on its various islands. • It is the largest Marine Protected Area in the Arabian Gulf.
Was established in 2001 as a protected area to preserve the natural diversity and quality of its coastal and marine environment for the economic, social, scientific and cultural benefit of the people of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.
The overall area of the Marawah MPA is 4255 km2. Bottlenose and Humpback dolphins are present in the surrounding waters,4 species of marine turtles, especially Green and Hawksbill Turtles, can be found here. The coasts of the marine protected area are considered as prospective beaches for the nesting of marine turtles.
More than 70 species of fish and coral reefs that are of environmental and economical importance to the country.
On most days, the few wooden cabins that line the white sandy beach of Salaha island ,one of dozens that make up the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve , are empty. The last permanent resident, an old woman, moved to Mirfa on the mainland three years ago. But on weekends the island comes to life with the return of Emirati families, descendants of the people who once lived off the area’s bountiful fish.
Casual visitors are not allowed in the reserve. Only descendants of the former population are allowed to visit their ancestral homes. Scientists and rangers from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, or Ead, have also access in the reserve’s core area around the island of Bu Tinah.
Mr .Al Romaithi, 39, who lives in Abu Dhabi is allowed to visit the reserve where his father use to live in the 60’ years. His family also has the right to fish in designated areas.
As the boat passes Ganana Island, Mr Al Romaithi points to an area where it is allowed to fish with mew techniques.The water is shallow and the sandy seabed is interspersed with small algae-covered rocks that provide food and shelter for fish.
No one has ever lived on Ganana but in the past, Marawah residents would occasionally sail there to camp and fish. If they needed help in pulling their nets, they would light a fire on the beach, signalling for Salaha’s residents to join in.
“Human interference in the coastal and marine area is still minimal compared to other areas,”
Mr. Al Romaithi’s family home on Marawah is spacious and includes a majlis, large sleeping quarters, servants’ quarters, a kitchen, and a children’s play area with slides and swings. He has also kept the small wooden house his father built in the mid-1960s. “In the winter, we clean it and we stay inside,” he said.
Mr Al Romaithi has other reasons to visit the area. He is the site manager of Ead’s station in Mirfa. It is the reserve’s protected status that ensures its marine riches, and the heritage of the local people lives on, he said.
“Twenty years ago any boat could go and fish, even people with no knowledge,” he said. “Now there are rules and special permits for everything.”