Farasan Islands

Country/territory: Saudi Arabia

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, B1i, B1ii, B2, B3 (1994)
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Area: 620,000 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 not assessed low low
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Site description (1994 baseline)
A Red Sea coral archipelago, 40 km offshore, with dozens of low-lying islands and islets. Some islands are bare and surrounded by coral, while others are sandy. The largest island, Farasan Kabir (c.39,500 ha), is 120 km long and up to 75 m high; inland vegetation comprises Acacia-Commiphora bushland with Ziziphus and Salvadora, as well as Euphorbia thickets and dense, 3-m-high Asparagus bushland. There are several dense stands of mangrove (mostly Avicennia but also Rhizophora). Some islands are fringed with salt-tolerant bushes. Farasan Kabir, Saqid (the only other large island: 15,600 ha) and Qummah are permanently inhabited (c.7 villages), but there are Coastguard stations and/or temporary fishing camps on other islands. There is a pearl fishery, a small amount of cultivation (dates and sorghum), and a few herds of goats.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species. The islands are important mainly for breeding seabirds and raptors, but have only been incompletely surveyed. Other breeding species include Phaethon aethereus (6-12 pairs), Pelecanus rufescens (40+ pairs), Egretta gularis, Ardea purpurea, Pandion haliaetus (40 pairs) and Sterna bergii (100 pairs). There are important concentrations of wintering waterbirds on the southern beach of Farasan Kabir, including Arenaria interpres (335).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Gazella gazella farasani (endemic); Asellia patrizii (only site in Arabia). Reptiles: Coluber insulans (endemic); many sea-turtles (globally threatened) breed.

Data-sheet compiled by P. Gaucher and J. M. Thiollay, with comments by P. Symens.

Raptors MOU - IBA listed under Table 3 of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Farasan Islands. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.