Artificial reefs and sunken vessels to create underwater wildlife haven on UAE's east coast

At least 15 new coral reefs will encourage regeneration of marine ecosystems in Dibba

Divers will plant 15 artificial reefs off the UAE coastline near Dibba in June to encourage the regeneration of marine ecosystems.

The areas were damaged by dredging and ocean degradation.

Volunteers from the Freestyle Divers’ Marine Conservation Academy will visit the Dibba Rock Marine Conservation Area to mark World Ocean Day on June 8.

This provides a wonderful opportunity to educate, motivate and activate the community on the importance of protecting the marine environment

Natalie Banks, Azraq

The reefs will form the foundation for a new ecosystem and coincide with the expansion of the Fujairah dive centre’s Dibba Rock coral reef nursery.

Subject to approvals, 20 boat hulls will be sunk during June and July to form a deep reef environment for diving, marine conservation training and education.

“The UAE coast has an abundance of diverse marine life, but as divers we have seen first- hand the result of pollution and human activity,” said Darryl Owen, managing director of Freestyle Divers.

“Through our programmes, we have seen the result of our conservation efforts with the emergence and return of marine life species.

“Ocean degradation affects us all, so to effect real change, marine conservation activities should be open to everyone.”

Contributing to UAE marine conservation efforts has just become easier for UAE residents and businesses. Courtesy Freestyle Divers
Contributing to UAE marine conservation efforts has just become easier for UAE residents and businesses. Courtesy Freestyle Divers

Data from the World Resources Institute showed coral reefs across the world, including those in the UAE, are endangered, with more than half under threat.

By 2030, scientists estimate as much as 90 per cent of reefs could be at risk.

Making up less than 0.5 per cent of the planet's surface, coral reefs are home to 30 per cent of marine species.

An estimated 25 per cent of all marine life is reliant on coral reefs at some point in their lifecycle, while the complex ecosystems provide food and jobs for millions of people globally.

These marine habitats also generate more than half the earth’s oxygen and so play a critical role in human survival.

Plans to create one of the world’s largest artificial reefs off the Fujairah coastline in more than a decade were first announced in 2019.

Government environmentalists partnered with scientists in the US to develop the huge underwater ecosystem, similar in size to three football pitches.

Coral reefs in Florida face similar threats to those in the Emirates, including rising sea temperatures, human pollution and land reclamation.

In Dibba, Freestyle Divers teamed up with Azraq, a volunteer-run marine conservation organisation based in Dubai.

Under the partnership, Azraq’s volunteer, corporate and school members will have access to the Freestyle Divers’ Marine Conservation Academy, which focuses on theoretical and practical in-water conservation education.

“Freestyle Divers provides an environment where science meets marine conservation,” said Natalie Banks, managing director of Azraq.

“Thhis provides a wonderful opportunity to educate, motivate and activate the community on the importance of protecting the marine environment.”

Updated: May 19, 2021 10:35 AM

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