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Overfishing threatens Middle East reefs

Saudi Fish Market

When marine biologist Michael Berumen first went diving off Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast in 2008, he noticed something peculiar about the coral reefs. Then a postdoctoral fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, he had travelled to the Kingdom with a group of colleagues to assess biodiversity of the Red Sea corals, one of several seed projects that had emerged from a new collaboration between Woods Hole and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

“The reefs looked like they were in great shape, but there was something missing,” says Berumen. “Every single one we visited had small groupers, snappers, and trevallies, but not bigger ones, and we didn’t see any sharks. It didn’t take us long to realize that the top predators were gone...

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