The Red Sea is considered as a semi-enclosed elongated basin located in an arid zone area with irregular topography and bathymetry such peculiar features create a wide array of highly sensitive and productive habitats including, coastal vegetation, mangroves, seagrasses / algal, coral reefs and offshore islands.
These habitats which encompass a vast number of diverse living organisms, as important food and economic resources, are mainly located in the narrow strip of the coastal zone area.
Mangroves are considered as conspicuous coastal vegetation constituting the characteristic tropical feature of the Sudanese Red Sea coast. They are located (as stands or patches) along the coastline, around bays or sharms as well as several offshore islands being more extensive and prolific in the southern parts of the coast.
Among the three mangrove species that were previously reported in the Sudanese coast (Avicennia marina, Rhizophora mucronata,& Brguiera gymnorhiza ). Avicennia marina is the only predominat species.
Seagrasses (marine angiosperms)
10 species out of the 11 seagrasses species reported in the Red Sea were encountered with varying densities and species diversity in the Sudanese coast. Well-developed and extensive seagrass beds were detected in the southern part of the coast where continental shelf area gets relatively wider compared to its northern part. Sea grasses habitats are highly productive ( 300-3000 mg C/ m2/year) maintaining arrange of ecological and commercially important fisheries resources (molluscs, crustaceans, fish fauna& echinoderms) and nursery grounds for many of these benthic & fish fauna.
Coral reefs are considered the prominent feature, characterizing the Sudanese Red Sea. Three types of coral reefs exist:
Marine living resources and status:
More than 450 fish’s species are now recognized in the Red Sea mainly related to coral reef fishes only. Most of these reef fishes have been reported in the Sudanese Red Sea where about 250 coral reefs fisheries were identified. 97 species of Sudanese Red Sea commercial fishes were encountered from some previous studies as coral reef fishes including mainly; Groupers (Plectropomus maculatus, Epinphelus ssp), Snapper (Humpback red snapper, Lutjanus gibbus, Variola louti), Mackerels (Narrow-barred, Spanish mackerel, Scomberoumonus sp.), Parrot fishes (Scarus harid) and Emperors & Jacks. Stocks of Lazard fish, thread fin breams, goat fish & squids (bottom-trawled demersal fishes) and sardine fishes.
Sharks and rays (Elasmobranch)
The main types of sharks in the Sudanese waters include: Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), Silvertip sharks, Grey reef sharks, Silky sharks, White & black tip sharks, and Whale sharks. More than 20 species of sharks (including most of the above types) have been identified in the Sudanese Red Sea out of the 44 shark species recorded in the Red Sea so far.
Batoides (include mantas, rays & skates) are also known to occur in the Sudanese Red Sea. Manta rays (Manta birostries & M. alfredil) have been reported to form massive aggregations (during breeding season) mainly in northern part of the coast.
Ornamental fishes (fancy fishes)
Over 240 species belonging to about 26 families of ornamental fishes have been recognized in the Sudanese Red Sea. These demersal fishes are considered the most important component in the reefs fish community structure and as potentials in the flourishing aquarium fish trade. Numerous species of Angelfish, Butterfly fish, Damsel fishes, Sweetlips Emperos & Parrot fishes are among the most common types encountered in the area that exhibit a high degree of endemism.
The highest living cover and corals diversity occur in the central Red Sea where the Sudanese coast is located. Corals identified in the Sudanese Red Sea may exceed 200 species from more than 35 genera which indicates relatively high level of coral diversity and endemism. Most common corals species include: Acropora spp, Pocillophora sp, Porites spp, favites spp, Stylophora ssp, Galaxia spp, Millipora spp, Fungia spp, Turbinaria spp, Platygyra spp., Xenia spp, and Gorganin spp fans.
Over 250 species of shell molluscs (snails, oysters, limpets, clams & mussels) have been identified and assessed in the Sudanese Red Sea.
Trochus spp. : Trochus dentatus is considered the most dominant species encountered along the coast
Mother of pearl oysters: Pinctada margaralitifera of wide occurrence and abundance along the Sudanese shallow coastal waters, particularly at the northern coast.
Other shells: i. e. Stormbus (S. tricornis), Lambia sp. (Snails) and Tridacna (giant clam) are also commercial & of ecological value.
Stormbus spp. are also collected for their opercula (Dufra) which are sold as important ingredients for special locally made perfumes.
Shrimps (prawns): About 8 species of shrimps which are of highly commercial values including Penaeus spp. ( 5), Metapenaeus spp. (2), Tracypenaeus sp. (1). The bulk of shrimp’s wild catch for export is mainly made up of Penaeus semisulcatus & P. latisulcatus while the cultivated shrimp product is solely made of P. menodon, though limited.
Lobsters: Three species of lobsters (Panulirus spp.) were identified in the area, with Panulirus penicillatus being the commonest.
Sea cucmbers : About 9 species of sea cucumber have been reported in the Sudanese coastal water including mainly: Holothuria spp (6), Actinopyga spp. (2), and Thelenota sp. (1). Sea cucumbers fishing (or collecting) has started since more than three decades, on commercial basis, for export. The population stocks of these ecologically and potentially important resources showed significant decline which attributed to over exploitation.
Dugongs (Sirenian): The Dugong dugon is the commonest species, observed frequently along the Sudanese coast and reported in few numbers (£ 220).
Dolphins & Wahales (Cetaceans): include several species of common dolphis (Dolphinus dolphis), bottle –nosed (Tursiops truncate) humpback (Sousa plumbea) dolphins and the pilot whale (Globicephala, sp.) are known to be common in the Sudanese Red Sea. The above mammals are generally classified as globally threatened species.
Four out of the five pantropical species of turtles reported in the Red Sea, have been encountered in the Sudanese coastal waters (Hawksbill, Green, Logger head, and leatherback turtles) with hawksbill (Eremochelys imbricate) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtles being the most common.
They are more than 20 species of true seabirds characteristic of tropical Indian Ocean have been reported forming aggregations on smaller and larger offshore islands.
The most common seabirds include: Crested trens (Sterna spp.), white cheeked tern (Sterna repressa), brown noody (Sula lecogastor) sooty gulls (Larus sp.), crab plover Caspian tern, ospreys & herons.