Owen focuses on UAE’s reef-friendly approach to ecosystem protection

Sharjah 24: “Coral is like an ecosystem architect – it creates habitat,” said Darryl Owen, a UAE-based marine conservationist who leads an “underwater city” project at through artificial reefs to support the growth of biodiversity in the marine ecosystem, along the coast of Dibba, Fujairah in the UAE.
Speaking at the Conservation Summit held as part of the sixth edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival at Expo Center Sharjah yesterday, the CEO of the Freestyle Diving Centre, shed light on the legacy submarine created in the United Arab Emirates in collaboration with Azraq, a non-profit marine conservation organization.

During a session titled “Building Underwater Cities in the United Arab Emirates”, Owen explained that coral reefs are an essential part of marine ecosystems and provide habitat for more than 30% of ocean species, although they make up less than 1% of the ocean floor. “They keep themselves clean, garden and take out the trash, so to speak,” he added.

To protect one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the oceans, Owen helped launch the Dibba Project to design ‘underwater cities’ – a collection of artificial reefs that mimic the characteristics of natural reefs and are designed to attract and harbor marine life.

“The water here in the UAE is fantastic for coral growth. But coral needs something strong to grow, and we have a lot of sand,” he said, adding: “What we did was basically coral gardening”.

The project started in July 2021 on ocean land granted by the municipality of Dibba. The work began by collecting thumb-sized pieces of broken coral from the ocean floor and propagating them in tubes on special nursery tables before finally being transplanted.

He added that the unique structures, which combined functionality with a bit of artistry, supported the coral, noting that no less than 23 structures had been built since the project began.

The team used photography and videography to document the growth and colonization of species that had arrived on the reefs.

“We saw so many beautiful images today of marine life and other animals from around the world,” said Owen, calling on the Conservation Summit audience to volunteer to support Freestyle Diving as a sponsor, coral propagator. or diving instructor. .