Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Artificial coral reef started off Sihanoukville

Artificial coral reef started off Sihanoukville

Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha (right) places coral on a submerged shipping container that he hopes will become an artificial reef off Koh Rong Sanloem on Saturday. Photo supplied
Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha (right) places coral on a submerged shipping container that he hopes will become an artificial reef off Koh Rong Sanloem on Saturday. Photo supplied

Artificial coral reef started off Sihanoukville

Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha and local dive businesses took restoring marine ecology into their own hands on Saturday by dropping two shipping containers in the waters off Koh Rong Sanloem in an effort to create an artificial reef – much to the surprise of officials charged with managing those waters.

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Governor Yon Min said yesterday that the plan to create an artificial reef has been a long time in the making and has previously involved dropping segments of cement drainage pipes to serve as structures for corals to grow on.

“The two containers are sponsored by Oknha [tycoon] Tea Vichet and [his brother] Oknha Tea Sokha,” he said.

However, Deputy Provincial Fisheries Administration Chief Hok Lam yesterday said he was never told about the plan.

“We created a model area for protection. As for putting the containers, I saw the pictures on Facebook, but I did not know … because they did not contact me,” he said.

The containers were placed in shallow waters off of a beach controlled by the military on the island of Koh Rong Sanloem. But thanks to last year’s creation of the Marine Fisheries Management Area – the Kingdom’s first attempt at a marine conservation area in the waters around the Koh Rong archipelago – the spot where the containers were placed would fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial Fisheries Administration.

Divers place coral on one of the two shipping containers that were submerged in an effort to grow a coral reef off of Koh Rong Sanloem on Saturday. Photo supplied
Divers place coral on one of the two shipping containers that were submerged in an effort to grow a coral reef off of Koh Rong Sanloem on Saturday. Photo supplied

Lam said the only project he had been aware of was one to demarcate the MFMA in collaboration with the conservation group Flora and Fauna International.

“Normally, for something like that they should inform us, but why don’t we know about it?” Lam asked.

Contacted yesterday, FFI marine conservation project manager Kate West said the group was also unaware of the reef-building, though she declined to comment further.

Pierre Kann, a hotel owner, diver and founder of Save Cambodian Marine Life who helped plant the containers on Saturday, yesterday maintained that marine ecology experts had been consulted prior to the project, but said they were unavailable to speak to reporters yesterday.

Sokha, meanwhile, maintained that a national committee had approved the project in conjunction with the provincial government, though he did not specify which agencies were involved.

He added that he intends to place more containers in the coming weeks, insisting that the reefs will create new fish habitats, dissuade fishing, and grow the coral and fish populations, attracting dive tourism.

While aware of the MFMA’s jurisdiction, Sokha said, “we have to do whatever it takes to make the fish and coral increase”.

The original headline for this article stated that the artificial reef was 'in' Sihanoukville. It has been corrected to 'off'. The Post apologises for the error.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh authorities ban march for Human Rights Day

    Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless. The UN

  • Phnom Penh’s Jet’s Container Night Market shuts down

    The famous Jet’s Container Night Market in central Phnom Penh has shut down due to the high cost of the land rental, company representatives claim. Jet’s Container Night Market is the largest such market in Phnom Penh. It operated for just over two

  • Hun Sen rejects ‘rift’ rumours spread by ‘stupid gangsters’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday denied a “rift” among top leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and rejected claims that Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were set to be removed from their positions as rumours spread by “gangsters”.

  • EU ambassador to Cambodia: Rights a ‘work in progress’

    The EU ambassador to Cambodia has called human rights “a work in progress” and said the 28-nation bloc has “carefully” noted last week’s statement by the government on taking further steps to strengthen democracy and the political sphere in the Kingdom. The EU marked