Skip to main content

Red Sea corals threatened by mystery sea urchin deaths

A mass die-off of the sea urchins that help keep algae in check on coral reefs is threatening the Red Sea ecosystem, marine biologists in Israel warn
— Eilat (Israel) (AFP)

The Red Sea's spectacular coral reefs face a new threat, marine biologists warn -- the mass death of sea urchins that may be caused by a mystery disease.

Because the long-spined creatures feed on algae that can suffocate corals, their die-off could "destroy our entire coral reef ecosystem", warned scientist Lisa-Maria Schmidt.

In Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat, which borders Jordan and Egypt, Schmidt recalled the moment she and her colleagues first witnessed the population collapse.

"When we jumped into the water, all of a sudden all those specimens we used to see before were gone, and what we saw was skeletons and piles of spines," she told AFP.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.