Bahrain Artificial Reef Program
Within Bahrain, an array of anthropogenic impacts have left their mark on the integrity and productivity of marine ecosystems with once complex marine habitats now reduced to rubble. During recent decades, extensive areas of benthic habitat have been decimated, not only by intense land reclamation and dredging activities, but also as a result of destructive and illegal fishing practices and natural events (e.g. sea temperature rise).
The government of Bahrain has long experimented with the use of artificial reefs, not only as a tool to offset environmental damage, but also to enhance those subtidal areas which have the potential for increased productivity. Now, under the umbrella of the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife (PCPMREW), PH Environment Gulf has been commissioned to design, construct, deploy and monitor ten artificial reefs (2620 artificial reef units in total) strategically located within Bahrain’s waters. The key objective is to enhance fish stocks within the selected areas, with a view to expanding the project should this initial phase prove successful.
Artificial reef site selection studies commenced in October 2011 via a GIS-based exclusion mapping exercise; this resulted in the initial selection of ten areas within which more intensive field investigations (e.g. drop-down video, SCUBA diver and fisheries surveys) were undertaken. Three of the ten shortlisted areas were selected as artificial reef sites and a desk-based hydrodynamic assessment of reef unit stability undertaken to confirm their suitability. These selected sites were located off the north, east and north-west coasts of mainland Bahrain.
It was decided at the outset that the US Patented Reef BallTM system would be the mainstay of the artificial reef unit design although indigenous designs which reflect both Arabian architecture and the natural topography of the seabed have been included. The majority of reef unit types, including all Reef Balls, are constructed in Bahrain at the premises of Reef Arabia using a high strength (50+ MPA) marine-grade concrete mix.
The first artificial reef complex (262 units) was deployed in March 2012 and the target date for deployment of all ten reef complexes is October 2012. Marine environmental monitoring of the reefs will continue for a further year on a quarterly basis; this monitoring will be temporally staggered in accordance with the sequential deployment of the reefs.