Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

Environment

Watch: volunteer divers in action to help restore Fujairah's coral reefs

Project to increase marine life involves cutting coral and replanting it further out at sea

Volunteer divers are being sought to help to restore and replant coral reefs in the open waters of Fujairah.

In the next five days, teams will take fresh coral from Dibba Port and replant it further out at sea, about a kilometre from Dibba Rock, a popular diving spot.

The campaign is part of an initiative to help sustain and grow marine life in UAE waters.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment said dives will take place every day this week from 7am to noon and finish on Saturday.

It was an amazing experience to be a part of. I cannot wait to see how it will develop over the next few years

Mamdouh Abdelghani

On Monday, The National joined four volunteers on the first dive of the month.

“This is phase two of the campaign and we planted what we call mother corals in and around the port area just over a year ago,” said Ali Aldhanhani, a volunteer diver.

“We have about five farming stations in this particular area and the original corals were donated by the ministry.

“When we first received them they were small cuttings, each just a few centimetres wide, but now they have grown and sprouted and will be transferred to the coral gardens further out at sea.”

The group collected more than 100 kilograms of coral, including a number of different species such as stylophora pistillata, pavona decussata and acropora clathrata.

The cuttings were taken from about eight metres down and were replanted in deeper waters, about 15 metres down.

Using a chisel and hammer, the team carefully extracted the coral from the sea bed within the port.

Large chunks, some more than a foot wide, were then broken down into smaller pieces and replanted at sea using underwater reef glue. Other pieces were placed loosely into larger, mature corals.

The glue, made from cyanoacrylate gel, is often used to secure and mount coral frags and colonies to reef rock or plugs.

Tandi McRae, 41, a teacher from New Zealand, was one of the volunteer divers on the day. She signed up to the project after seeing a post on social media.

“Today we brought coral from Dibba Port over to a marine reserve just off the Fujairah coast,” she said.

Tandi McRae hopes the project will help marine life to thrive in the coming years. Reem Mohammed / The National
Tandi McRae hopes the project will help marine life to thrive in the coming years. Reem Mohammed / The National

“When we were at the port we carefully extracted the coral from the rocks and loaded them on to the boat.

“We just got done planting a whole bunch of coral on these brick-like structures and, hopefully, in a few years we will see some beautiful coral reefs here."

The project, which is part of the Fujairah Cultured Coral Reef Gardens, was launched last year.

It includes the cultivation of 1.5 million coral reef colonies that will eventually span about 300,000 square metres. To date, divers have planted more than 9,000 corals.

It is the largest conservation project in the country and will take place over five years.

Heading the dive was Cpt Adam Alreesi from Fujairah Adventure Centre.

“Today we have a smaller group of divers so we collected about 100kg of coral – several different species," he said.

“We can take about 15 people out a day during the collection phase and we usually collect about half a tonne each time.

“We are keen to have more volunteers join in and help boost the marine life here.”

Once fully planted, the gardens will provide a safe haven for a large number of local fish species in the area including hammour, sheri and barracuda.

It will also help boost their populations by protecting their eggs and larvae from predator fish and strong water currents.

Mamdouh Abdelghani, 34, a transport administrator in Dubai, joined Cpt Alreesi and his team on Monday's dive.

He secured his open-water licence in 2015 and was a commercial diver for a few years before taking an office job.

Hopefully, in a few years we will see some beautiful coral reefs here

Tandi McRae

“I was keen to volunteer for this project because I care a lot about the thriving life in the sea,” he said.

“This is my way of showing respect to the marine life.

“I helped with the cutting today and then replanted some of the coral in deeper water. It was an amazing experience to be a part of.

“I got to see all the different coral species mixed and growing together and I cannot wait to see how it will develop over the next few years.

“Protecting these water habitats is a passion of mine, so to help on a project like this is a total pleasure.”

Diving slots are still available for phase two of the conservation campaign, which will run until Saturday.

Volunteers must have open-water diver certification and can get in touch with the Fujairah Adventure Centre on 09 222 2252.

Updated: August 4, 2020 09:01 PM

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