Expedition to save Red Sea corals hits bump in the sea route

The Swiss vessel Fleur de Passion in Sevilla 22 April, 2021, before sailing off to the Red Sea where scientists are hoping to study the sea's heat-resistant corals. (Credit: Transnational Red Sea Center/Fabiano D'Amato)

Fleur de Passion's mission to save the Red sea corals has hit a major setback before it even started.

The Swiss ketch Fleur de Passion has hit its first bump in the sea route – and a very literal one – after the boat crashed last month into a coral reef in the Straits of Tiran off the coast of the Egyptian city of Charm el-Sheikh less than a day after its departure. 

The “cruel irony” of the incident isn't lost on Le Temps, which reports that the vessel “ran aground on the corals it was supposed to save”.

The expedition, launched by the EPFL's Transnational Red Sea Center and supported by the Swiss national authorities, aims to converge science and diplomacy by gathering scientists from neighbouring countries to study the sea's unique heat-resistant corals. 

While coral reefs elsewhere are rapidly deteriorating due to the rising sea temperatures to the point of risking disappearing by 2050, the Red Sea corals can withstand one to two degrees above their summer maximum, shining a ray of hope for the survival of these vital marine ecosystems.  

However, the diplomatic intricacies of working in such a high-tension region turned out to be more complicated than the organisers expected, with the Arab partners showing a reluctance to work with their Israeli counterparts, the Swiss daily newspaper states.

The participants of the mission, who are still figuring out how to tow the boat back to land and evaluate the damage, are distraught at the whole situation but “are nevertheless determined to fight for their dream, with the help of Bern, which will continue to offer them diplomatic support”.

Le Temps