The Red Sea Project
2022 PADI AWARE Grantee
The Red Sea Project aims to more effectively raise awareness and conserve endangered sea turtles by offering a formal PADI certification, while providing valuable survey training.
Egypt’s Red Sea Project is located in one of the most biodiverse and beautiful areas of the world – the Red Sea. Within those waters, five of the seven species of sea turtle can be found. Because of this, and because of the inherent importance of sea turtles to the local ecosystem, the Red Sea Turtles Project focuses on this iconic reptiles.
The PADI AWARE Foundation Community Grant continues and expands upon the conservation work that the Red Sea Project is already doing through their educational and citizen-science programs. In particular, funds will allow the Red Sea Project to offer a formal PADI certification on sea turtles. Participants will receive education and citizen-science experience protecting these marine marvels.
Dr. Omar Attum, the scientific advisor to the project, said, “PADI AWARE support will allow the Red Sea Project to increase its educational and conservation effectiveness. We are finding that students and divers are increasingly looking for educational opportunities and experiences in conservation.”
Ideally, eventually, everyone using underwater cameras in the Red Sea would participate in sea turtle photographic identification – an endeavor that the Red Sea Project already runs, said marine biologist and research assistant Gizem Koç. Pictures and data received help inform scientists about the population and demographic structure, movement patterns and status of the local sea turtle population, she added.
Marine biologist and research assistant Kaila Wheatley Kornblum hopes for a daily data flow of turtle encounters. That data could then be used to protect the endangered turtles of the red sea more efficiently, she said. “This will enable us to gain a better understanding of the Red Sea’s turtle distribution, abundance, movement patterns and habitat usage and therefore to protect them more efficiently," Kornblum added.
“Through the newly acquired knowledge, we will be successfully implementing more effective conservation strategies. A further great success is if we would be able to raise awareness to the local community and tourists about the importance of marine turtle conservation, and the best practices and code of conduct,” Koç said.
The long-term hope is that this project will remain consistent, with frequent collaboration among stakeholders. For participating citizen scientists, that would look like more informed and motivated participation in sea turtle conservation after they leave, Attum said. For PADI dive centers and PADI professionals, this would mean financial incentives to continue participating in marine conservation through citizen science, he added.
The PADI AWARE funding leaves the Red Sea Project team feeling immensely hopeful. Marine biologist and research assistant Lina Hossam said, "It means that we are not the only ones trying to make a difference and there is truly hope for these endangered species. It will allow us to protect them to the best of our ability and hopefully start changing the narrative for these endangered animals."