Living Oceans Foundation leads Red Sea expedition

Scientist divers to investigate coral reefs for impact of global warming, pollution and population growth in and around Farasan Islands

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)--Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation will lead an all-star team of scientist divers on an expedition to study the "rainforests" of the Red Sea. State-of-the-art technology will enable the team to complete years of coral reef research in just three weeks. The research will focus on threats to coral health such as global climate change, ecotourism, over-fishing, pollution and development.

"This will be some of the most advanced coral reef environment research, with the fastest turnaround and major international impact, to date," said Philip Renaud, executive director of Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. "Our findings will guide future international policy on coral reef protection and Marine Protected Areas management."

Coral health has global economic, social and ecological implications:

  • Coral reefs support more than 25 percent of all marine fish species.
  • Reefs provide fisheries with 6 million metric tons of fish annually. Industries based on coral reefs provide millions of jobs.
  • The total value of the world's reef resources is approximately $375 billion each year.
  • Coral reefs are a primary source of new drugs and biochemicals.

The expedition represents the first in which a Saudi Arabian government commission has partnered with a U.S. foundation to work in Saudi territory. The team, scheduled to leave May 3, will include U.S., U.K., Canadian, Austrian, French and Saudi scientists. They will map and survey the Farasan Islands Marine Protected Area, off the coast of Jizan, Saudi Arabia.

"The Farasan Islands are of particular interest for their biodiversity and range of human impact," said Renaud. "Their population has quadrupled in a decade and the ecotourism and commercial fishing industries in the region have grown tremendously."

The Foundation has selected 15 schools (5 U.S., 5 U.K., 5 Saudi Arabian) to participate virtually in the expedition. High school students studying marine science will track and analyze expedition progress and participate in near real-time Q&A with the scientists.

Also joining the research team is a professional film crew. Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation plans to use footage from the expedition to produce a professional documentary film.


Media Note: Contact Patrick Slevin at (850) 906-9888 to schedule an interview with Philip Renaud, executive director of Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. Visit to follow the progress of the expedition and learn more about the Foundation.

Red Sea Expedition Fact Sheet ABOUT THE EXPEDITION

  • The Red Sea expedition will concentrate on coral reefs in and around the Farasan Islands Marine Protected Area off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The team will assess the impact of:
  • Ecotourism including souvenir collecting and booming diving resorts; the Red Sea hosts more than 3,000 divers and snorkellers a day during peak diving season
  • Pollution particularly from oil spills and plastics associated with maritime transport; also from desalination plants
  • Over-fishing including commercial and artisanal fishing, which alter the local ecosystems
  • Climate Change the result of excessive carbon emissions; leads to coral bleaching and possible coral death
  • Dredging and Anchor Damage
  • Landfilling and Development causing severe damage, changing sedimentation patterns and water circulation; altering the distribution of plants and animals
  • The research team will travel on the Golden Shadow, a recently refitted 67-meter yacht that is part of a four-vessel fleet used by Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. The yacht can travel at a maximum speed of 17 knots and includes several speedboats, a 60 mph racing boat, satellite telephones, worldwide internet connection, an array of flat screen technology, digital charts and satellite navigation.
  • Other organizations partnering with the Foundation for the Red Sea Expedition include:
  • Saudi Arabian National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD)
  • Regional Organization for Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA)
  • Lantra: the UK Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the Environmental and Land-based Sector
  • Trident Trust, U.K.
  • Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, University of Cambridge, U.K.
  • National Coral Reef Institute
  • University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

  • The Red Sea expedition is the most recent in a series of international expeditions by Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation:
  • Sumatra Tsunami Coral Damage Rapid Assessment Survey (2005) The Foundation partnered with Reef Check and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to assess reef damage along the northwest coast of Sumatra following the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004.
  • Expedition to the Seychelles Islands (2005) The Foundation partnered with scientists from the U.K and Seychelles Islands to conduct aerial mapping of islands and surveys of marine environments in the Indian Ocean.
  • Expedition to the Sea of Cortez (2001) U.S. and Mexican scientists joined to collect samples from 12 research sites across the Sea of Cortez in a search for natural products from marine organisms.
  • Expeditions to the Mediterranean I & II (2001) Scientists from the U.S., France, Canada and Monaco studied the Northwest Mediterranean south the French-Italian border. The Foundation also sent U.S. and Greek scientists to the island of Anaphi to study one of the most devastating ancient volcanic eruptions in human history.
  • Expedition to Tahiti (1998) This study was the genesis of the Living Oceans Foundation. It focused on the effects of the 1998 El Nino ocean warming event that alarmed scientists around the world.
  • Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is a 501(c)(3) American Public Benefit, Private Operating Foundation founded by His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia. The Foundation, headquartered in Washington D.C., is dedicated to conservation and preservation of the living oceans with a focus on international partnerships and programs to advance the concept of "Science Without Borders". For more information on Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation or the Red Sea Expedition, visit

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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