Egypt has declared a relatively good proportion of its land as PAs, and the ecological and social benefits offered by Egypt’s PA system are high. Protected areas have been Egypt’s most important and effective tool to conserve its biodiversity, preventing the potential loss of species and habitats, as well as fulfilling its international commitments. They have expanded over the past 30 years in both number and area. By 2013, 30 protected areas were established, covering over 146,000 km2 or about 14.6 % of the total surface area. They vary in size, from the largest, El Gelf El Kebeer PA, at about 48,500 km2 to Saluga and Gazal, at about 0.5 km2.
The nationally designated protected areas system contains a good representation of Egyptian habitats with high biological significance. It also represents other sites of importance, such as biodiversity hotspots, cultural heritage sites, geological formations, landscapes of outstanding natural beauty and Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The system appears to be equally important for most aspects of biodiversity conservation, i.e. representativeness, important species, full range of diversity, significant populations, etc.
However, the coverage did not meet the CBD 2020 Aichi target (Aichi Target 11: “at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas”). Although the percentage of terrestrial and inland water areas meeting the 17% target has increased from 7.2% in 1994 to 14.7% in 2013, the percentage of marine ecoregions meeting the 10% target is only at about 1.7 %. Outside of protected areas, the proportion of sustainably managed production landscapes for agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, amongst others, is limited.
Egypt has seven coastal and Marine PAs located in the Red Sea and Al-Aqaba Gulf zones, except El Sallum PA located in the Mediterranean Sea. These PAs cover an area of approximately 50,000 km2. They include interconnected marine and terrestrial sectors based on conserving coral reefs and accompanying systems, marine biomes, mangrove bushes, marine islands and adjacent mountain and desert areas. Protected areas in the Aqaba Gulf in the South Sinai Governorate include Ras Mohamed, Nabq, and Abu Galum protectorates. In the Red Sea Governorate, there are the Elba, Red Sea Islands and Wadi el Gemal/Hamata protectorates. The Sallum protectorate is located in the Matrouh Governorate. Although a good percent of Egypt’s coastline currently falls within marine protected areas; waters further offshore are generally poorly protected. Marine biozones on the east coast are least protected and most threatened.
There are eight Wetland PAs in Egypt, mostly located in the Mediterranean shores and the Nile River banks. Wetland PAs cover an area of approximately 6,500 km2 . They specifically include some northern lakes and coastal zones, as well as islands along the Nile. They protect resident and migratory bird habitats, assist in the management of fisheries, local community development and promote ecotourism. Among these protected areas are: Zaranik in the North Sinai Governorate, Ashtum El Gamil in the Port Said Governorate, Omayed in the Matrouh Governorate, Lake Qarun and Wadi El- Rayan in the Fayoum Governorate, Saluga and Ghazal Islands in the Aswan Governorate and the 144 Nile Islands and El Burrullus in the Kafr El Sheikh Governorate.
There are nine PAs located in Sinai and the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt. Together they cover an area of approximately 100,000 km2 and include mountains, plains and wadis. They protect the floral and faunal diversity in these regions, regulate and promote safari tourism and support local communities. Desert Pas include the Al-Ahrash in the North Sinai Governorate, Taba and St. Katherine in the South Sinai Governorate, Al Omayed and Siwa in the Matrouh Governorate, the White Desert in the New Valley Governorate, Wadi Asiuti in the Assiut Governorate, Wadi Allaqi in the Aswan Governorate, El Gelf El Kebeer in the El Wadi El Gedid Governorate and El Wahat El Baharia in the El Giza Governorate.
There are six geological PAs in Egypt covering an area of approximately 80 km2, which constitute unique geological phenomena identified as significant scientific and touristic destinations. Geological PAs include the Hassana Dome, the Petrified Forest and Wadi Degla in the Cairo Governorte, the Sannur Cave in the Beni Sueif Governorte, the El Dababiya in the Luxor Governorte and the Niazak Gabal Kamel in El Wadi El Gadid Governorate.