In Gulf of Thailand, artificial reefs take life

The much-publicized dumping of decommissioned military tanks into the Gulf of Thailand is only part of a long-term project to increase local fish stocks and prevent overfishing by creating artificial reefs in the Gulf of Thailand.

In early August, Thailand sunk is first batch of Chinese-made tanks off the coast of southern Thailand provinces Pattani and Narathiwat. This week, Tanin, director of the Thailand Institute of Marine Technology, told SeafoodSource that the project is much bigger than a quick attempt to build new reefs, with an annual budget of THB 115.7 million (USD 3.7 million, EUR 2.9 million) over the next eight years.

“The project attracted the support of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand while on a visit to the Pattani and Narrathiwat provinces of southern Thailand,” said Tanin. “Both the King and Queen were concerned at the depressed life of fishermen in the region.”

That was in 2008, and since then various agencies have assisted in building artificial reefs in the Gulf. The State Railways of Thailand donated old railway lines and containers, and Thailand’s Highways Department contributed concrete pipes and pillars, all of which have been deposited into the ocean.

Tanin said the project has been relatively successful, with shellfish, sponges and barnacles thriving on the reefs.

In a recent interview with the mainstream press, Dr. Somying Piumsombun, director general of Thailand’s Fisheries Department,  said the country had to demonstrate to other nations that it was serious about marine conservation and sustainable fisheries.

“We’ve carried out many measures in the Gulf and along the coast to increase stocks, including banning operations less than three kilometers from the shore and prohibiting fishing during the hatching season,” said Somying.

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