Watch: Volunteer divers in action to help restore Fujairah's coral reefs

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Volunteer divers are being sought to help to restore and replant coral reefs in the open waters of Fujairah.

In the next five days, teams will take fresh coral from Dibba Port and replant it further out at sea, about 1km from Dibba Rock, a popular diving spot.

The campaign is part of an initiative to help sustain and grow marine life in UAE waters.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment said dives will take place every day this week from 7am to 12pm and conclude on Saturday.

It was an amazing experience to be a part of. I cannot wait to see how it will develop over the next few years

Mamdouh Abdelghani

On Monday, The National joined four volunteers on the first dive of the month.

“This is phase two of the campaign and we planted what we call mother corals in and around the port area just over a year ago,” said Ali Aldhanhani, a volunteer diver.

“We have about five farming stations in this particular area and the original corals were donated by the ministry.

“When we first received them they were small cuttings, each just a few centimetres wide, but now they have grown and sprouted and will be transferred to the coral gardens further out at sea.”

The group collected more than 100kg of coral, including a number of different species such as stylophora pistilata, pavona decussata and acropora clathrata.

The cuttings were taken from about eight metres deep and were replanted in deeper waters, about 15 metres down.

Volunteer divers are taking fresh coral from Dibba Fujairah Port and replanting it further out at sea to help marine life to thrive there. All photos by Reem Mohammed / The National

Dibba Fujairah Port pictured from just off shore

The divers' boat speeds past the sea wall at Dibba as they head out to sea

Tandi McRae and Ali Aldhanhani prepare their gear ahead of a dive. They cut and collect coral from near the port and replant it further offshore, to help marine life there to thrive

Some of the coral that is collected for replanting offshore

Captain Adam Alreesi from Fujairah Adventure Centre is taking volunteers out to the site every day this week, ending on Saturday

The project is a long-term drive to improve marine life and coral growth off the coast

Two men fish in Dibba Fujairah’s port.

A diver is seen holding fresh coral

Divers Tandi McRae and Mamdouh Abdelghani enter the water

More divers are needed for the project this week

Is it expected to take at least several years for the benefits of the project to be seen

Volunteers described the project as rewarding and urged others with diving experience to get involved

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Using a chisel and hammer, the team carefully extracted the coral from the sea bed within the port.

Large chunks, some more than one foot wide, were then broken down into smaller pieces and replanted at sea using underwater reef glue. Other pieces were placed loosely into larger, mature corals.

The glue, made from cyanoacrylate gel, is often used for securing and mounting coral frags and colonies to reef rock or plugs.

Tandi McRae, a teacher from New Zealand, was one of the volunteer divers on the day. She signed up to the project after seeing a post on social media.

“Today we brought coral from Dibba port over to a marine reserve just off the Fujairah coast,” the 41-year-old said.

FUJAIRAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 3 AUGUST 2020. Tandi McRae, a teacher from New Zealand, volunteers. The UAE is calling on more volunteer divers to help restore and replant coral reefs in the open waters of Fujairah. Over the next five days, teams of volunteers will take fresh coral from Dibba Fujairah Port and replant it further out at sea, about 1km from Dibba Rock, a popular diving spot in the emirate. The campaign is part of an initiative by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Fujairah Adventure Centre to help sustain and grow marine life in UAE waters. (Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National) Reporter: Section:
Tandi McRae hopes the project will help marine life to thrive in the coming years. Reem Mohammed / The National

“When we were at the port we carefully extracted the coral from the rocks and loaded them onto the boat.

“We just got done planting a whole bunch of coral on these brick-like structures and hopefully in a few years we will see some beautiful coral reefs here."

The project, which is part of the Fujairah Cultured Coral Reef Gardens, was launched last year.

It includes the cultivation of 1.5 million coral reef colonies that will eventually span about 300,000 square metres. To date, divers have planted more than 9,000 corals.

It is the largest conservation project of its kind in the country and will take place over five years.

Heading the dive was Captain Adam Alreesi from Fujairah Adventure Centre.

“Today we have a smaller group of divers so we collected about 100kg of coral, several different species," he said.

“We can take about 15 people out a day during the collection phase and we usually collect about half a tonne each time.

“We are keen to have more volunteers join in and help boost the marine life here.”

Once fully planted, the gardens will provide a safe haven for a large number of local fish species in the area including hammour, sheri and barracuda.

It will also help boost their populations by protecting their eggs and larvae from predator fish and strong water currents that threaten their survival.

Mamdouh Abdelghani, a transport administrator in , joined Captain Alreesi and his team on Monday's dive.

He secured his open water licence in 2015 and was a commercial diver for a few years before taking an office job.

Hopefully in a few years we will see some beautiful coral reefs here

Tandi McRae

“I was keen to volunteer for this project because I care a lot about the thriving life in the sea,” the 34-year-old said.

“This is my way of showing respect to the marine life.

“I helped with the cutting today and then replanted some of the coral in deeper water, it was an amazing experience to be a part of.

“I got to see all the different coral species mixed and growing together and I cannot wait to see how it will develop over the next few years.

“Protecting these water habitats is a passion of mine so to help on a project like this is a total pleasure.”

Diving slots are still available for phase two of the conservation campaign, which will run until Saturday.

Volunteers must have an open water diver certification and can get in touch with the Fujairah Adventure Centre on 050 993 0309.

Updated: August 4, 2020 12:42 PM

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