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Enhancing the capabilities of ARASIA States Parties to monitor the marine coastal environment

Collection of Marine Algae in Aden, Yemen

Collection of Marine Algae in Aden, Yemen

Throughout history, the coasts of the Arab countries in the Asia region have provided their populations with fishing grounds and opportunities for trade, and today, millions of people in the region depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. Coastal ecosystems, however, are highly vulnerable to human activities and are threatened by exploitation and pollution.

The discharge of waste from industrial, agricultural and domestic activities into coastal waters causes major changes in coastal conditions and damages marine resources. Climate change is also affecting the chemical composition of seawater, leading to ocean acidification. Polluted marine waters may lead to outbreaks of harmful algal blooms, the closure of fishing grounds and shellfish beds, and restrictions on the consumption of seafood.

In countries that are dependent on marine resources, like in many of the IAEA’s Member States Parties to ARASIA (Co-operative Agreement for Arab States in Asia for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology), marine pollution poses a severe threat to the economy.

The ARASIA countries have been making extensive efforts to enhance their marine environmental management and to alleviate coastal contamination. Working with the IAEA, countries in the region are using nuclear techniques such as isotopic tracers to track contaminants in the sea and to detect the sources of pollutants – organic or radioactive substances and toxins – dispersed as a result of natural or engineered processes. Nuclear techniques can also be used to understand the consequences of the unplanned redistribution of pollutants in the coastal marine environment. Scientists can use this data to provide policymakers with useful information for implementing programmes to restore and protect coastal waters.

Two IAEA technical cooperation projects in particular have helped ARASIA States Parties to coordinate their efforts to monitor, protect and rehabilitate the marine environment. Through these projects, ARASIA States Parties have harmonized procedures for sampling and analysis of radioactive and non-radioactive pollutants in the region, coordinated coastal monitoring activities and established regular monitoring programmes. The monitoring programmes feed validated data on coastal pollution into a regional database and then into the Agency's global web-based database. As a result, ARASIA Member States can now compare data with a wider network of marine laboratories, allowing a more comprehensive assessment of baselines, sources, and potential contamination events.

As a result of the projects, the monitoring capabilities of the countries bordering the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Gulf have been strengthened. Capabilities to apply nuclear and associated techniques in support of national and regional programmes for monitoring the coastal environment are in place, and human and technical capabilities have been improved and strengthened through training courses, fellowships and regional interaction between the participating Member States. In addition, laboratories in the region have been upgraded with tools and equipment that allow them to assess marine contaminants.


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