DUBAI: The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCaE) has launched the installation of artificial caves in the fishing waters just off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah, in cooperation with Delma Industrial Supply and Marine Services (Delma Marine).

The project is undertaken within the framework of a memorandum of understanding signed between the two entities to build artificial habitats that provide a safe environment for the breeding of fish and other marine species. The agreement aims to enhance fish stocks in UAE waters and protect the country’s natural heritage, as well as bring fishing areas closer to the shore in order to reduce the cost of daily fishing trips and the maintenance frequency of fishing boats and engines.

The first stage of the project comprised the installation of 100 artificial caves in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. During the second stage, starting in early October, 100 additional man-made caves will be placed across two sites in the waters of Hamriya area in Sharjah.

In total, the ministry plans to install 1,000 caves across the UAE by the end of 2017. Delma Marine will manufacture the caves using eco-friendly materials and position them in areas identified by the ministry in collaboration with environment authorities concerned.

Salah Abdallah Yousuf Ahmad Al Raisi, director of the Fisheries Sustainability Department at the ministry, said, “The project is part of the ministry’s Artificial Caves Programme, launched in 2016, that seeks to support the fishing industry through helping fishermen increase productivity. The ministry’s ongoing efforts in this regard aim to safeguard the sustainability of living aquatic resources and enhance food security in the country, a key element of the UAE Vision 2021.”

He added, “As a prime example of a productive partnership between the public and private sectors, the ministry’s joint project with Delma Marine reinforces the sense of social responsibility among private sector companies, one of the key objectives of the #Year of Giving.”

As part of its drive to develop living aquatic resources, the MoCCaE issued Ministerial Decision No. 103 of 2017 on the building of artificial marine habitats. The decree allows government agencies, scientific research institutions, universities and fishermen’s cooperative societies, as well as individual fishermen registered with the ministry to build artificial caves.

Individuals and entities interested in the construction of artificial caves must obtain a permit from the environmental and municipal bodies concerned. Each applicant must provide the authorities with a map of the proposed site. Prior to installation, Delta Marine inspects the caves to ensure the materials comply with the specifications outlined in the ministerial decision. The company also monitors the locations of the caves and reports any violations to the ministry.

The decree prohibits building artificial caves within three nautical miles of the shore as well as in marine reserves and near state-owned islands. Areas of government authorities, scientific research bodies, military installations, oil exploration, oil and gas pipelines, telecommunications, inland waters such as lakes and creeks, shipping lanes and natural coral caves are also off limits.