In September of 2013 about 140 large concrete cubes where deployed in three sites around Koh Tao in a project brought to the island by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and the Prince of Songkla University. The project aims to increase the reef area and available habitat for fish and other coral reef organisms in order to preserve and manage the marine resources around our island. Additionally, they provide unique areas for divers to visit and practice their skills instead of learning to dive on natural reefs. The blocks were placed down at the same time as the island wide mooring block project.
But getting the blocks to the island is only have the battle, now the blocks must be moved from the location they were dropped and assembled into the planned structures. This work is being completed through volunteers from local dive schools working together through the Save Koh Tao Marine Branch. The New Heaven Reef Conservation Program has been busy helping out since the planning stages of the project, and we are very excited to begin this underwater construction work.
Each block weighs between 1 to 1.2 tons on land, but about 45% lighter under the water. Large lift bags filled with air are used to make the structures light enough that a team of 4 divers can lift and walk them into place.
This process must be done carefully, so that we can ensure the safety of our team and also make sure that no natural reefs are damaged in the process. In a single dive, a maximum of about 4-5 blocks can be moved, so there are still plenty of dives left to finish this project.
This artificial reef project is a big improvement for our island that will hopefully have continuing environmental and social benefits for decades to come. We are excited to be a part of this project, and each day, despite being very tired, we are rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing big impacts being made.
We are even more excited as the DMCR has announced their plans to bring over 2,500 of the cubes to the island next year as part of a very large artificial reef project addressing reef resilience, fisheries management, dive industry management, and illegal fishing enforcement.