The masked pufferfish is endemic to the Red Sea. A similar fish, the black-spotted pufferfish, does not have the black splash around its mouth and can be found throughout the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.

WHILE THE RED SEA IS VERY DEEP, Bab el Mandeb, the channel that separates it from the Gulf of Aden, is narrow and shallow. This restricts the flow of water between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and hence restricts the movement of reef fish.
Outside, the exchange of reef fish between the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean is also limited by ocean currents and the extent of the coral reef habitat.
The consequence is that many fish species in the Red Sea, particularly reef fish such as butterflyfish, have evolved in relative isolation from their cousins outside. This results in distinct species that are endemic to the area.
About 1000 species of fish can be found in the Red Sea and various sources estimate that between 10 and 30% of fish species are endemic. Here are a handful that you are likely to see on any Red Sea diving trip.


  • In the 10 years from the opening of the recompression chamber in Sharm el Sheikh to March 2003, 780 divers were treated.
  • The population of Egypt is 63.5 million. The vast majority of people live in the Nile valley.
  • There are 83 dive centres and 288 dive-boats in Sharm el Sheikh.
  • The Marine Conservation Society released a responsible diving video for showing on flights to the Red Sea in 1998, revised in 2001. It has been translated into German and Dutch but not Russian - Russian flights have no facilities for in-flight video.
  • HEPCA (Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association) has installed 685 buoys from north of Hurghada to St Johns Reef and Rocky Island in the south since 1992. Each costs £300-400.

A species which is easy to identify is the golden butterflyfish, which is endemic to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It is usually found in pairs or small groups.
The Arabian picasso triggerfish can be found from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. It can be distinguished from other species of picasso triggerfish by the orange splash around its anus.
The Red Sea raccoon butterflyfish is endemic to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. A similar species, the raccoon butterflyfish, can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific but not in the Red Sea, and has a double black splash above the gills and a black spot
The Red Sea bannerfish is another endemic butterflyfish. Like most butterflyfish it is found in pairs, but also large groups. There are other species of bannerfish that can be found in the Red Sea and the way to identify this species is that the first bla
The crown butterflyfish is endemic to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The way to distinguish it from a few similar-looking cousins is that the vertical stripe over its eye is a golden-yellow colour rather than black.