Muscat – Environment Authority (EA) has stepped up its conservation and preservation efforts with a project that saw installation of mooring buoys in the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve.
Sponsored by Occidental Oman (OXY) and implemented by Haejoo EnC – Middle East, the project was commissioned by EA in December 2022 and completed last month following a two-week survey in February.
With the objective of protecting coral reefs and developing the nature reserve, the project was the first of its kind in the sultanate by virtue of its installation method providing mooring buoys for tourist boats that visit the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve.
Metal anchors dropped by boats to the sea floor destroy coral reefs which take many years to grow. With 20 mooring buoys now installed around the Daymaniyat Islands – including the popular dive and snorkelling sites of Kharabah Island, Three Sisters, Turtle City, Black Tip, and Coral Garden in the southern end of Qasmah Island – tourist boats will not have to drop anchors.
These buoys are also expected to help monitor and control dive sites and enhance management of the reserve.
“All 20 buoy sites were determined for various considerations, through consultation with the community, the reserve’s visitors, marine tourism centres, guards and reserve employees, and based on the bathymetric surveys and the hardness and roughness of the sea floor,” said Mohammed al Qarni, Environmental Systems Specialist at EA.
The survey to identify the buoy sites in February was conducted using Haejoo’s purpose-built 10m catamaran – Maris Stella – equipped with multi-beam scanning sonar, inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor, dual GPS radar and multifunctional monitors.
The site survey involved bathymetry (for depth measurement) and backscatter scan (mapping relative hardness and roughness of the sea floor), followed by further community consultation.
The installation method required a crane barge and the heaviest duty underwater jackhammer given the hard sediment of the sea floor in the nature reserve.
Describing project implementation, Ryan Paik, General Manager of Haejoo EnC – Middle East, said, “We’ve used underwater earth anchor technique to have minimal impact on the coral reefs.”
He added, “Visitors should be aware of the fact that coral reefs take ages to form and are vital to marine species. These mooring buoys will help protect and conserve the coral reef ecosystem.”
According to the manufacturer of the mooring buoys, these have product life expectancy of up to 12 years.
“It is rewarding to see that many boats are already using the buoys. They would appreciate EA’s efforts and delivery of the project for both coral reef conservation and helping local businesses,” Qarni noted.
After studying the results of this project, “we hope to increase the number of mooring buoys in the sultanate, especially in places with a sensitive and fragile environment. There are many places in Muscat that need mooring buoys, including Al Fahal Island and Bandar al Khairan”.