With an estimated 1,500 species of fish inhabiting its coastal waters, the region is an ecological treasure and is home to one of the largest fishing economies in the region.
There are 200 square miles of coral reefs scattered along coastline extending through the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. However, the area has been battling both physical and anthropogenic elements and increases in both tourism and economic development in the region have been cited as causes of the extensive coral bleaching along the coastline. The Indian monsoon is also a major climatic threat. Occurring in the summer months, strong upwelling along the coast created by the strong winds generate temperature extremes, high-nutrient concentrations and algal blooms which diminish the area’s coral cover. After Cyclone Gonu hit the coastline in 2007, 36 sites were found to have diminished in coral cover by two-thirds.
Increasing tourism and urbanisation in the area has also threatened some of Oman’s critically endangered mammals. With currently fewer than 200 Arabian leopards roaming the mountainous wild, stretching from Saudi Arabia and moving southwards through Oman and into Yemen. Illegal hunting of the leopards in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as limestone quarrying in the leopard habitats, are considered to be main causes of the animal’s near extinction.
Laws against hunting and capturing, as well as large-scale conservation efforts, provide a glimmer of hope. Similar conservation projects were aimed at the endangered Arabian Oryx, which was successfully reintroduced into the wild after being declared extinct in 1972.