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Asia Dive News : Artifical reef project gets underway in Phuket

Phuket's Bangtao Bay, has commenced the seeding of the bay area with concrete structures to promote the development of an artifical reef. On Monday the 23rd of January the project by the Phuket Marine Biological Center or PMBC was officially launched by Vice Governor Nirund Kalayanamitra in Bangtao Bay, of Cherng Talay district, near luxury 5 star resorts and the Muslim fishing community, who share the Andaman Sea coast.

The local people had previously agreed and discussed the positioning of the project with the PMBC, under the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and also joined the Cherng Thale Administrative Organization to promote it.

The Director of PMBC, Wannakiat Thubthimsang, explained how this program was developed: “We have this project combining 2 projects. The first is artificial reefs of 50 cubes, the other source of budget is from tsunami rehabilitation, so we also construct the same type of 280 more blocks, so total 330 blocks in Bang Tao Bay in Phuket province.”

They plan to scatter the 1.5 meter long cubes or blocks in about a 1 kilometer square area near Waew Island at about 10-15 meter depths well away from the popular shores. The district office plans to promote the location with marker buoys as a new scuba diving site as it will attract coral and fish over the years.

The artificial reefs will also be sources of food for all kinds of marine lives creating natural food chains and lead to better undersea ecological systems, and also attract small scale sustainable fishing in long-tail boats.

Whether the two diving and fishing communities can share the sites remains to be seen, but Wannakiart emphasized the local people's participation: “We have done this project under participation of people in this area every step, with fishermen and owners of dive shops, so after deployment we ask groups of fishermen in long tail boats to take care of the reefs.”

The PMBC staff will also check them and evaluate how many come to use to artificial reefs. The cubes size and shape should also prevent larger trawler fishing vessels from using this fragile area. It will take about 3 years for colonies of coral to form on the concrete, and in about 8-9 years they should look as natural as normal reefs.

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources is planning over the next 2 months to place more of them in Bang Tao Bay as the first location, before expanding to 6 more sites; 1 at Kata-Karon bay, and 1 at Coral-Bon islands, 2 sites in Racha Yai islands, all in Phuket province; then 1 near Phi Phi and 1 near Ao Nang area in Krabi province. Some blocks will be in 20-30 meter depths and all will be outside of the natural marine sanctuary and national parks.

Wannakiat also revealed some of the costs:“One site is 1.5 million baht for 280 cubed blocks.” Meanwhile the Cherng Talay administrative body administrator Samart Sa-ke said his office will spend 600,000 baht to promote the Bangtao artificial reef as a new diving site, as there is also an old tin dredge capsized under the sea there for a long time and they should both attract more divers' interest. The tourism community should welcome this project initiative as it will help repair some of the damage to the reefs... by man and nature over the last few years.

Source: TAT