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Bahrain - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity

Overview

The kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of around 40 low-laying islands in addition to numerous islets, shoals and patches of reefs situated off the central southern coast of the Arabian Gulf. The country occupies a total area of about 728 km2 and has sovereignty over approximately 3000 km2 of territorial waters. The terrestrial landscape in Bahrain is predominately arid desert with limited inland waters. Alternatively, the marine biotopes are diverse and include extensive sea grass beds and mudflats, patchy coral reefs as well as offshore islands. Sea grass beds are important foraging grounds for some threatened species such as dugongs and the green turtle. Pearl diving was a thriving industry, substantially contributing to the national economy before it collapsed in the last century. The principal current sustainable uses of the components of biodiversity include an active, but declining food fishery and a declining, but diversifying agriculture. Of exceptional international importance, Hawar Islands Protected Area provides valuable feeding and breeding grounds for a variety of migratory seabirds. The breeding colony of Socotra cormorant on Hawar Islands is the largest in the world, and the dugongs foraging around the archipelago form the second largest dugong aggregation after Australia. Urbanization is the major threat to the components of biodiversity in Bahrain. A considerable proportion of the coastline has been modified by coastal development involving both dredging and infilling operations. Other major anthropogenic stresses on local biodiversity include industrial and oil pollution, over- fishing and invasive alien species.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

There is one terrestrial and five marine protected areas declared in Bahrain.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Although no specific national goals or targets have been developed in Bahrain to address the 2010 target, many measures have been taken that contribute to its achievement. For instance, Al-Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve maintains breeding populations of rare and likely threatened species including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Successful captive breeding and re-introduction programs undertaken by Al-Areen have promoted the recovery of rare antelopes, such as the Arabian sand gazelle. Public awareness programs are implemented on regular basis, and the provisions of promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity have been incorporated into the national educational curricula. Bahrain has recently prepared the National Environment Strategy (NES), which is currently under consideration for adoption by the competent national authorities. The agricultural sector is currently implementing programs to re-use treated wastewater for irrigation purposes in an attempt to overcome the increasing shortage of freshwater. Also, loans are provided to farmers intending to launch programs dedicated to the protection of date palms. There is a lot of pressure to adopt effective measures to minimize adverse stresses imposed by over-fishing. All destructive fishing methods, such as explosions, poisons and polythene nets, are prohibited. Alternatively, the sustainable traditional fishing methods, such as the wire and barrier traps are encouraged and maintained. For instance, only traditional fishing is permitted in the marine environment bordering Hawar Islands Protected Area. To ensure the sustainability of shrimp stock, shrimp harvesting is banned annually during the recruitment period.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

The Al-Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve is the centerpiece of the Bahrain terrestrial protected area system and managed on daily-basis. The key objectives of Al-Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve are to promote scientific research, ecotourism, public awareness and the conservation of biodiversity in Bahrain. Tubli Bay was declared as a protected area in 1995 and designated as a RAMSAR site in 1997 in an attempt to promote the protection of the coastline from coastal development. However, strict regulations associated with effective management are currently of pressing need to prevent further ecosystem collapse in Tubli Bay. Declared as a protected area in 1996 and designated as a RAMSAR site in 1997, Hawar Islands have been considered the most Important Bird Area anywhere in the region. It has to be noted that due to financial obstacles, an integrated protected areas system has not been developed in Bahrain.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

Concerns have increased to protect and maintain the traditional knowledge and practices pertaining to the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity in Bahrain such as those associated with fishing, pearl diving and date palms. For instance, fishing by the traditional wire (gargoor) and barrier (hadra) traps are exceptionally permitted in Hawar Islands for this purpose.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme