Under the Ships in the Suez Canal

Source: New York Times

Alec Doherty

THIS summer, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced that the Suez Canal would be expanded — to around double its size. The canal is the fastest way to sail from Asia to Europe, a shortcut that brings Egypt $5 billion of revenue a year. But in addition to hosting 10 percent of the world’s shipping traffic, the canal is a major conduit for invasive species.

Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Yet the Suez Canal expansion is proceeding without any environmental review whatsoever.

In September, 18 scientists published a paper in the journal Biological Invasions calling the expansion and lack of environmental oversight “ominous” because “the Suez Canal is one of the most potent mechanisms and corridors for invasions by marine species known in the world.” The lead author, Bella S. Galil, from the National Institute of Oceanography in Israel, told me, “We are playing Russian roulette, not with a bay or a river, but with the entire Mediterranean Sea.”

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