LETTER | During our last visit to fishermen villages along the southern coast of Penang island, we learned that the nearby sea was a fertile breeding ground for marine life. As fishermen depended on those breeding ground for their daily catch, they are concerned that land reclamation for the three new artificial islands will affect the seabed and following that, their livelihoods.
We at AnakPinang care for the fishermen’s welfare and their source of income. In order to enrich the marine life in the area, we would like to recommend to the government to consider using reef balls as part of the marine restoration and protection effort at the southern coast.
What is a reef ball? Reef balls are a patented technology developed from pH-neutral concrete that does not degrade or leach chemicals into the sea. It is harmless to the environment.
A reef ball can last to more than 500 years. The concrete is designed and moulded with holes that encourage marine lives to settle in. Reef balls naturally attract fishes and other sea creatures such as prawns and turtles while also minimising coastal erosion (photo above).
The growth of marine biodiversity around reef balls will also act as a natural filter that cleans up the water and the seabed as sea scavengers multiply.
The growth of marine biodiversity in the south sea of Penang island will turn the area into a popular fishing ground. This will benefit the local fishermen as well as open new economic opportunities in that area such as seafood outlets, home stays, boat excursions, dried seafood production, and the promotion of leisure fishing activities.
There are many successful reef ball programmes such as those seen in the Atlantic, Australia and Sarawak. The reef balls can be fertile ground for corals to grow and be turned into healthy breeding environments for marine lives.
Each reef ball can weigh up to one ton and this serves to stop trawling fishing that destroys the seabed and which is actually happening now even before any reclamation work started.
The reef balls could be placed around the southern coast with a distance of up to 20 kilometres from the beach in order to protect the seabed from fishing trawlers.
The land reclamation for the three islands could temporarily affect the livelihood of local fishermen. Nevertheless, the reef ball programme, if implemented, could provide a fast turnaround plan for their economic livelihoods.
AnakPinang is a Penang-based civil society group in Penang.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.