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Policy and Management Considerations for Artificial Reefs in the Arabian Gulf

A diverse and productive mosaic of highly important ecosystems border the coastline of the Arabian Gulf, providing invaluable goods and services to coastal populations and representing the most biodiverse habitats in a region better known for its arid deserts. Recently, however, these ecosystems have come under escalating pressure from urbanization, fisheries activity, and global climate change. Artificial reefs have been in use for centuries in the Gulf region, where they were inherited through family lines and regulated under the senat al-bahar (the ‘code of the sea’). Today, regional marine managers and policymakers are increasingly promoting artificial reefs as a tool to mitigate the ongoing impacts on Gulf ecosystems and fisheries. Artificial reefs may support some goals of marine managers and policymakers, but they are not a panacea and involve many risks. Without appropriate design, regulation, and management, artificial reefs can exacerbate existing problems or inadvertently create new issues that add to management burdens in coastal areas. 

The purpose of this policy report is to summarize the available knowledge on artificial reefs as tools for marine management, specifically in the unique environmental and social context of the Arabian Gulf. The paper highlights the importance of Gulf coastal ecosystems and recent regional changes to demonstrate the need for more active interventions from marine managers. Next, the paper conducts a global assessment of the proposed goals and benefits of artificial reefs from the scholarly literature. We then highlight potential detrimental effects of artificial reefs that are often unrecognized or overlooked, but which can profoundly impact the success of artificial reef programs. The paper concludes with six key recommendations for policymakers and marine managers considering artificial reef programs in the Arabian Gulf. 

Recommended citation: Burt, J., Bartholomew, A., & Firth, L. (2021). Policy Management Considerations for Artificial Reeds in the Arabian Gulf (Policy Paper No. 51). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.

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