Article Source: Thai News 
On Tuesday 31 January, the Department of Fisheries launched a new stage for an ongoing artificial reef project for small scale fishing in Phuket.
Officials, local villagers, and students took part in the launch of the concrete cubes, which will become artificial reefs in the Andaman Sea, at Tha Chat Chai in Thalang district of Phuket, near the Sarasin bridges to Phang Nga.
The project is expected to add more & better fishing sites for local small scale fishermen in the future.
The project cost 20 million baht and should be completed by March this year. It not only creates new sources of fishing for the local community, but the project also creates jobs for local people during the tourist season while villagers learn to participate in natural resources in their own community.
After the project was declared open, the first of 4,500 concrete blocks were towed out by a big barge and will be placed in the sea covering an area of 26 square kilometers in Bangtao and Kamala Bays.
Suchat Sangchan, a Fisheries Biologist, at the Andaman Sea Fishery Research & Development Centre, under the Department of Fisheries, explained to us the exact locations’ details on the map: “The area for Bangtao we put in 18 square kilometers, 3,000 reefs; in Kamala 8 square kilometers and 1,400 cubes; 4 positions here to cover all the sites.”
This is the third area or stage of the ongoing project previously started near Ko Yao islands in Phang Nga Bay as many as 22 years ago, and also near Ban Nam Kem and Koh Prathong north of Khao Lak in the Andaman Sea, 2-3 years ago. Their studies showed that even after the powerful tsunami hit in December 2004, the concrete cubes and artifical coral reefs were not badly damaged.
They discussed with the local community and formed a committee to agree on the new locations in consultation with the Royal Thai Navy and Harbour Department, and then employed a local company to manufacture and carry the blocks out to sea.
This project is very similar to the Phuket Marine Biological Centre’s project launched last week, with the same style of blocks being dropped in 6 tourist sites including the same Bangtao bay, but that is mainly for tourist divers, not small scale fishermen as projected here:
The cubes will be dropped off in about 24-43 metre depths which is also deeper than the tourist divers cubes, and they hope in about 3-9 years the cubes will grow coral, attract more fish and then fishermen mainly in long tail boats can try to catch more fish and different species there. But the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES should still prohibit the catching of some ornamental fish, marine animals, and also living coral, but allow the catching of economic fish. Suchat showed us photos and examples of 52 species of marine life around their previous artificial reefs, including 11 economic or catchable species: “This one every species are found in artificial reefs, ornamental and economic groupers. Ornamental species are so many too.”
The danger of course is that the two types get mixed up in catches, but as the cubes are meant only for small scale fishermen, not big trawlers with huge nets that would get stuck there, the fishermen should be able to distinguish between them and leave the ornamental beautiful fish for the tourists divers to enjoy watching, while bringing home more edible economic and tasty fish to their families and tourists to eat.