Concrete blocks pakistan artificial reef
Pakistan officials have installed nearly 330 modular blocks of the artificial reef in Gwatar Bay of Balochistan to improve marine life. Image Credit: WWF-Pakistan

Islamabad: New artificial reefs have been installed off Balochistan coast to improve marine life and fish stocks by creating a sustainable marine ecosystem.

The government of Balochistan has placed nearly 330 modular blocks of the artificial reef, each weighing 1.5 tons, in an area of four square nautical miles west of Jiwani town in Gwatar Bay. “The artificial reef was set up at a total cost of Rs48.5 million” by the provincial government, said Ahmad Nadeem, project leader and director fisheries department of Balochistan government. Following the successful deployment of reefs, the government plans to establish more artificial reefs along the coast, he added.

Significance of Gwatar Bay

The artificial reefs have been installed in Gwatar Bay – a transboundary marine wetland area shared by both Pakistan and Iran – which is known for its rich marine biodiversity. The area is important for marine fisheries and animals including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, migratory birds and mangroves. The installation of artificial reefs in the area will further enhance the productivity of the area and provide fishermen near Jiwani access to fish stock, experts say.

What is an artificial reef?

The artificial reef is primarily an underwater structure built to promote marine life in areas with a flat bottom in the sea. This manmade structure mimics some of the characteristics of a natural reef and provides shelter, food and other necessary elements for marine biodiversity. Natural reefs are made of rock, sand, coral, and other materials, while artificial reefs can be made of sunken ships, wood, rocks, or other structure. Reefs are essential to the health of the ocean, providing habitat for a variety of marine life and play an important role in local economies.

New era of biodiversity conservation

WWF-Pakistan, which was consulted during the planning, design and site selection of the artificial reef, considers the initiative the beginning of a new era of biodiversity conservation that will help increase production of commercially important fish and shellfish in Pakistani waters. “The reef will help in reducing poaching by trawlers in the Gwatar Bay” as bottom trawl fishing is considered to be highly destructive to the sea biodiversity in Balochistan, said Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical advisor fisheries at WWF-Pakistan.

Marine experts at WWF-Pakistan say that Pakistan’s first artificial reefs would “help protect marine biodiversity and improve socio-economic conditions of the coastal communities” in Balochistan. The project would also “provide shelter for a number of fish species as well as benthic and agile fauna.”

After placement in the seawater, the modular blocks would be encrusted with important marine animals such as corals, barnacles and bivalve shells, which will help in the growth of rich animal and plant communities. “It will also become home to large predatory fishes which are commercially important species and the productivity and biodiversity of the area will be enhanced” through this process.