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Artificial Reefs: Boon For Fisheries Sector

MALAYSIA - The Malaysian fisheries authority has been conducting research to boost the nation's fish supply for more than 30 years and among the initiatives has been the construction of artificial reefs.

The first artificial reef was set up in 1975 acting as a nursery for fish fry and a breeding ground for marine life.

The concept has been taken from the fishermen's knowledge that fish are discovered in abundance around shipwrecks and underwater debris according to a report from the Malaysian national newsagency Bernama.

Various materials have been used to create the artificial reefs, ranging from the discarded tyres, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), wrecked boats and concrete.

Realising the importance of reefs as ideal breeding grounds for marine life, Malaysia's fisheries authorities have embarked on a programme to boost the nation's fisheries sector by creating artificial reefs.

Fisheries Department Director-General Datuk Junaidi Che Ayub, said that via the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), the government has allocated some RM9.4 million for the development of artificial reefs as part of the efforts to boost the nation's marine resources.

The allocation is to meet the government's objective to produce two million tonnes of fish a year.

This comprises the 500,000 tonnes from the deep-sea sector, 600,000 tonnes from aquaculture and 900,000 tonnes from off shore activities.

Most of the artificial reefs are either like tetrapods (three-legged) or cuboids (four-legged), depending on the ocean floors topography.

They make good breeding grounds and promulgate the growth of coral.

Three months after the concrete structures were lowered to the sea bed, the artificial reefs become suitable for activities such as scuba diving, squid jigging and fishing.

"The fishermen earn additional income by conducting recreational fishing activities, like leasing out their boats and ferrying anglers," Junaidi told Bernama.

He also said studies conducted by the Fisheries Department revealed that the vicinity of the artificial reefs are rich in diversiy of fish species.

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Department has allocated RM400,000 for the construction of concrete tetrapods to be used as artificial reefs for the waters off Kuantan and Pekan.

The move is to replace previous reefs which have been destroyed by the choppy seas and winds from the monsoon of the South China Sea as well as from illegal trawling activities.

Two years ago, the department had installed concrete reefs off the Cherating coast that turned out to be among the favourite fishing grounds for local fishermen while RM500,000 was spent on developing recreational reefs in the waters of Rompin.

Apart from playing the crucial role as fish breeding grounds, these artificial reefs also prevent the intrusions by trawlers, including foreign-based vessels.

Junaidi said: "The department receives some 1,000 reports on trawler intrusions, nationwide."

There were also 30 reports on intrusions by foreign-based fishing trawlers in the first six months of this year, he said.