After being retired from the cargo industry, two shipping containers were sunk to the floor of the Gulf of Thailand to become a new home for native fish and coral.
The Royal Cambodian Navy and foreign marine experts dropped two shipping containers off the coast of Koh Rong Samloem—the second-largest island off Sihanoukville—on Saturday as a shelter for marine life and a growth site for coral, said Lieutenant General Tea Sokha, chief of maritime security at Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province.
Much of the native coral in the region has been destroyed by fishing nets, so the containers will act as an artificial reef and allow the coral to regrow, said Zia Valkyrie, manager at The Dive Shop Cambodia, a Sihanoukville-based company that assisted with the project.
Ms. Valkyrie said coral serves as an important food source for fish, and the containers can also act as a nursery for young fish to grow away from harm.
“By doing this, we set out to try and make everyone aware of the importance of coral for the ocean as well as the fish,” she said. “If we don’t have that anymore, then the fish disappear.”
The team cut holes resembling windows and doors into the containers and dropped them about 60 meters apart—one at about 7 meters deep and the other at a depth of 9 meters—anchored into the sea floor in a conservation zone, Lt. Gen. Sokha said.
Each container was adorned with pieces of staghorn coral, broken off the naturally occurring reefs, he said. The coral will take between three and six months to securely fasten itself to its new home, he added.
The preparation, transport and placement of the containers cost about $10,000, said Kann Pheareak, an instructor at Reef Dive Resort in Sihanoukville and head of the volunteer diver team. The cost was met by charities, according to Lt. Gen. Sokha, who did not give further details.
“[Lt. Gen. Sokha] wanted to make it become an underwater park,” Mr. Pheareak said, saying similar tourist-attracting conservation efforts have been used in Thailand and elsewhere in the region.
Lt. Gen. Sokha said he would continue to place other containers and old wooden boats around the islands to protect fishing in the shallow areas and increase the number of fisheries.
Dennis Funke, owner of The Dive Shop Cambodia, said via Facebook that the project will complement efforts to create protected zones where fish can breed.
“The Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem archipelago faces many threats: overfishing, increasing tourism, harmful fishing practices. So it is important to take action,” he said.