Each of the photos that accompany this article were taken in Kuwait or in the sea off Kuwait. They show species that perhaps you’ve never seen before. Species that live in the margins of our modern society. And they are under threat - from you and me. Unless we moderate our behaviour they won’t be with us much longer. Men’s Passion met KERA’s Dareen Al Mojil to learn why.
Founded as recently as July 2009, KERA rapidly established itself as an active and vocal participant in the ground-swell of a call for change in Kuwait’s recognition of its responsibilities towards the environment.
Whilst accepting that there has been a positive shift towards a new culture of environmental progress, the founding members of KERA felt that there were some areas the were still being neglected.
Key amongst their aims was to make their approach more ‘user-friendly’. As Dareen told us “There’s a big gap between today’s use of basic science and applied science, and more importantly there’s a big improvement that can be made in having other organizations deliver their results in terms that are easier for people to understand”. Simply put - KERA aim to make accessing information about local environment issues far easier for the lay-man, and far more engaging.
“Many of the organizations that are doing very good studies and very good work in Kuwait tend to communicate within themselves, of from scientific organization to scientific organization, but they’re not always very good at communicating with the people”, she explained.
Today, KERA is a link between these bodies and the people.
In a practical sense, KERA currently focuses on awareness issues. To support this they are is the throes of relaunching their website. “We’re keen that this isn’t simply a one-way informational resource”, says Dareen, “but that it will also become a communication tool between all the interested parties in our society”.
“People will be able to share their own information, ask questions, and make requests of KERA to look in to specific problems”.
A key facility within the website will be links for schools and educational facilities.
There has been a huge growth in interest around the world for matters of the environment and more importantly its sustainability. If there has ever been a need for groups like KERA, that time is now.
What KERA are reporting is a loss of habitat for a number of indigenous species. But why, to put it bluntly, does any of this matter to us?
First, let’s consider the sea. “Kuwait has a very important marine heritage”, Dareen comments, “income was derived from the sea. Even today, be it only for pleasure, Kuwaitis love to spend time on the sea - the connection between Kuwaitis and the sea remains close”.
And yet, somehow benignly, we allow and tacitly encourage the destruction of this very marine environment that we so love.
Dareen and KERA are keen not to over-exaggerate the scale of the problem - they rightly see this as being counter-productive - but nevertheless stress that, although the waters off Kuwait have not reached the point where recovery is impossible, we are at the stage where action urgently needs to be taken.
People talk about the ‘habitat destruction’ of marine life, but without going under water to witness the effects it’s difficult to get a sense of what is happening, and why it is important. Dareen explains: “Habitat destruction is a major issue for us, the effect of it on the bio-diversity in the region will be significant. By removing one species from the chain it will put other species under threat”. It’s a chain-reaction.
We’re not just talking about the destruction of coral, here there’s also sea-grass and the wider sea-bed. The means of destruction? Trawling.
“When the trawlers set their nets, they’re not just catching shrimps they’re catching other species as a by-catch”, she says, much of this is uncommercial and simply thrown back. The physical act of the trawler’s net scraping the sea bed inflicts damage to habitat that can take generations to recover. “They wipe everything clean”.
There are regulations that govern trawling, but as KERA report these are poorly enforced. KERA’s strength will grow through the wider sharing of such knowledge.
“It’s easy for us to simply say ‘Trawling is destructive’, but we’re keen to properly explain to people exactly why it is destructive and to show what we can do together to improve things”.
It is a difficult task however to make a society understand the consequences of such destruction. “We find the easiest way to help people understand is in fact not to focus only on the destruction, but to show how this destruction will affect us all. This is typically in two ways - economics and health”.
Fishing remains a part of Kuwait’s economy. If the sea-bed is not preserved this industry will not be sustained, and the income and jobs will be lost forever. We will all end up paying for the loss of the fishing industry.
Alongside this the pollution produced by unlicensed discharges in to the sea, and that caused by hydro-carbons, has entered the food-web. Preliminary research shows that lead-levels and hydro-carbon levels in fish are elevated. Not a healthy situation for the fish - but perhaps more importantly not a healthy situation for us.
Without doubt KERA has a full agenda. There are many areas of the environment to be tackled.
Dareen and her colleagues at KERA are keen to do this in co-operation with government agencies as well as other independent bodies. And they are keen to do this in a ‘non-confrontational’ manner too.
They are not ‘eco-activists’ - a term that can readily be used to describe more lunatic-fringes of the environmental movement. Instead they are the watchdogs of our nation’s environment, and we look forward to supporting them as such.
The MEMS network is created to provide an efficient scientific communication tool to connect, link, share and exchange contacts, knowledge, information and possibly set collaboration between scientist, divers and fishermen that work and/or deal with the marine environment.
MEMS network is established and will be managed by KERA (Kuwait Environmental and Awareness center).
MEMS network objectives:
CONNECT scientist, environmental governmental bodies and individuals that work with the marine environment.
SHARE interesting sightings, scientific methods, publications, general knowledge and contacts.
SET COLLABORATION with other regional and / or international researchers to conduct and improve the regional wheel of science.
If interested in joining the network please send an email with a summary on your work and affiliation to
firstname.lastname@example.org (Dareen Almojil) or
email@example.com (David Robinson)
(new site launches in November)
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #25 October 2010