During the war in July/August 2006, the Israelis attacked the oil depots of the Jiyyeh power plant, leading to the discharge of almost 15,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the sea and severely polluting the marine environment in many locations along the coast. Amongst the affected areas was the Palm Islands Nature Reserve (PINR); its rich biodiversity threatened.
The Palm Islands Nature Reserve comprises a group of three flat, rocky islands of eroded limestone pavement, 5.5 km offshore and to the northwest of Tripoli, with the surrounding seas: Sanani (4 ha), Ramkine (1.6 ha) and Palm Island (20 ha). The three islands, together with 500 m of their surrounding sea, have been legally protected as the Palm Islands Nature Reserve, which was established in 1992. From a terrestrial perspective, the Reserve has been designated a Specially Protected Area of the Mediterranean under the Barcelona Convention, an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, as well as a Wetland of Special International Importance.
Several threatened species are found in the Palm Islands Nature Reserve and may be susceptible to the oil. The critically endangered seal Monachus monachus was a regular visitor until the late 1960s, but in 1997 and 2000 some individuals were recorded again. The plant species Euphorbia pithyusa and Cressa cretica are nationally endangered. Benthos fauna includes two nationally threatened gastropod species: Vermetus triquetrus and Dendropoma petraeum. There are two globally endangered fish species, namely Epinephelus marginatus and Mycteroperca rubra. The Reserve Area Management Team confirmed that marine turtles (Chelonia mydas and Caretta caretta) have often been observed in the sea, and that loggerhead nesting has occurred.
Recently, IUCN, in collaboration with the American University in Beirut and the Ministry for Environment of Lebanon, launched a study to assess the effects of the oil spill on the marine biodiversity of the Palm Islands Nature Reserve, and develop a monitoring programme of the different marine habitats and species along the coast of Lebanon. The project is financed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.