A group of divers in Fujairah have come together to build an artificial “mega reef”, which they hope will protect sea life, combat coral bleaching and other coral degradation caused by climate change.
By cutting fresh coral and replanting it in the sea, divers from the Fujairah Adventure Centre hope to restore reefs in a bid to attract and sustain sea life.
The group of professional divers and volunteers has planted more than 9,000 corals over about 600 square metres in UAE waters in the past year.
Within five years, they hope to plant 1.5 million corals across 300,000 square metres along Fujairah’s coast, Reuters reports.
“[UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment] MOCCAE supplied us with the mother corals, so we planted them here in the port. Then we started taking parts of the mother corals, and replanted them in phases elsewhere,” Saeed Al-Maamari, diver and director of Fujairah Adventure Centre, told Reuters.
“This project came as a first line of defence to balance the sea environment.”
The development aims to be the world’s largest coral garden. It was announced by the MOCCAE in June 2018.
“We are recreating the coral reef environment and system, which becomes colonised with fish and increases biodiversity and becomes a habitat for fish species that are threatened and it becomes a nice environment for diving tourism,” said Ahmed Al-Zaabi, director of marine environment research at MOCCAE.
“All these things come from planting corals or the coral colonies that exist all over the world, thus, when these colonies grow, everything changes in this habitat.”
Reefs develop and grow over thousands of years, and are home to countless marine species. In Fujairah’s waters, divers can spot reef sharks, including black tip and guitar sharks, stingrays, manta rays, eagle rays, turtles, tropical fish, eels and colourful nudibranch around reefs. Particularly lucky divers have even spotted whale sharks in the UAE’s waters.
In May, dive instructor Zeek Zorkany returned to the ocean after a two-month hiatus due to restrictions surrounding the coronavirus.
“The fish were coming right up to us, and at one point, there were even sharks approaching us. Normally, they would be freaked out and disappear immediately,” he told The National.
“The major thing was the number of schools of fish that we saw. The amount of fish has probably quadrupled since I last went diving two months ago, in early March.
“It was like being in a forest of fish. The visibility has also really improved, and there was no rubbish and no plastic to be seen. We did see a couple of gloves and face masks, though.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
Updated: June 22, 2020 01:18 PM