MERSING, 21 November 2015 – A total of 12 concrete reefs developed by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) researchers were successfully anchored in the waters of Air Papan.
The concrete reefs were a result of a three-year research by Dr. Alice Sabrina Ismail from the Faculty of Built Environment with the collaboration from the South East Asian Fishery Department Centre (SEAFDEC) and funded by the University Community Transformation Centre (UCTC) of the Ministry of Higher Education.
Elaborating on the artificial reefs that have been laid on the seafloor of Mersing, Dr. Alice Sabrina said that the reefs were developed specifically to address the problem of illegal encroachment thugs that have haunted the local fishermen for years.
“These reefs have been designed with horn-shaped concrete projections on each side with the purpose of hooking the tow rope of illegal trawlers”.
“With its rope suffering serious damage, owners of illegal trawlers would certainly suffer huge losses and no longer try their luck in that area,” she said.
“UTM designed reefs were originally triangular in shape but was changed to a rectangle due to the nature of the seabed, which comprises 99% mud and 1% sand. It’s height was also increased to 1.5 meter so as not to let it sink in the seabed mud”.
“It aims to increase the number of fish at the top of the reef, allowing the marine life to linger in the reef structure ,” she said.
In total, the artificial reef measures 4650 meters long , 3 meters wide and 4275 meters high, with each individual component weight up to 18 tones and an endurance of 20 to 40 years. Front and rear walls form an angle of 90 degrees which would push sea water rich in nutrients to the sea surface and create the phenomenon of ‘upwelling’ or raging water.
“With its size and shape, these reefs seek to become the focus of small pelagic fish. This small pelagic fish will attract big fish like mackerel to be near the reef.
“The lower part will be occupied by demersal fishes such as grouper, snapper, sea bass, saffron, remong, tetanda, lobster and other high quality species”, she said.
The cost of each individual reef structure was approximately RM5,000 while the cost of transportation and dropping was around RM60,000.00.  A total of 12 artificial reefs were placed within 50m of each other, with an estimated site area of 150meter x 150 meters.
Based on case studies and records of SEAFDEC and JPM in 2011-2014, the construction of fishing reefs can increase the average volume of fishing. This can enhance the monthly income of fishermen from RM200.00 per month to between RM700.00 and RM, 1000.00 per month after 3 months of artificial reefs being anchored to the seabed.