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Artificial coral reef structures net big fish along Tamil Nadu coast



Times of India, New Delhi, 07th May, 2015


 P Oppili & A Selvaraj


CHENNAI: They may not exactly be coralreefs but they are attracting schools of fish. And fisherfolk of 25 coastal villages in the state are smiling all the way to the bank.


Fish aggregating devices (huge, porous concrete structures resembling coral reefs), immersed in shallow waters off the coastal villages, have been assuring fishermen a regular catch and higher income. Rajendran of Anichakkuppam, near Marakkanam on East Coast Road, says the artificial structures have been a big boon and that he manages to earn almost Rs 600 daily. His colleagues from fishing hamlets across the state agree, saying they earn anything between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 a day.


The Rs 2.55 crore project, funded by the state fisheries department, was launched by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in 2007. Detailed studies were conducted and several models experimented with before the first 'reef' was sunk. CMFRI senior technical officer S Mohan said: "We found that certain models gave good results and attracted many species of fish and corals. This made us decide to extend the facility."


It now covers 25 hamlets in Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore, Pudukkottai, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts.


The CMFRI scientists have made three triangular models fitted with pipes, some elliptical and others hexagonal. "The porous concrete structures are sunk at a depth of 1015 metres," said an official.


A study by CMFRI researchers showed that algae began growing on the concrete structures in the first three months of their being sunk in the sea. The algae in turn attract plankton which then becomes a feeding ground for larvae and young fish. Within the next six months, the devices start attracting several varieties of fish. They ensure the stability of the ecosystem and also make sure that traditional fishermen, those who venture out into the sea on catamarans, are able to haul in a regular catch throughout the year.


CMFRI officials said they artificially transplant the corals on to the concrete structures before they are immersed in shallow waters. This, they say, will help the formation of corals on the artificial structures over a period of time. Corals are normally a slow-growing species and it would take several months for them to establish colonies inside the structures, said Zoological Survey of India officials.