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Project aimed at increasing fish populations

PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Feb. 21, 2010) - Work is underway opposite the Tahiti-Faa'a Airport on a nearly 15 million French Pacific francs (US$177,000/126,000 euros) experimental development of artificial coral reefs project.

"The objective is to test the possibility of increasing with human-made structures the production of our lagoons in some lagoon fish," French Polynesia Maritime Resources Minister Temauri Foster said.

His comment was contained in a communiqué issued by his ministry after he visited the site being development by the public bidding contract winners, the French group P2A Développement and French company Morancy Conseil Environnement companies. P2A is an independent company created in 2004, specializing in ichtyo-ecology (fishing, aquaculture and aquariotechnic).

"We work internationally to evaluate and enhance marine resources. Our clients are communes, public and private organizations as well as fishing committees, with whom we work to find solutions to enhance the sustainability of their resources," P2a Développement says on it online site.

Morancy Conseil Environnement is based Marseille and specializes in environmental consulting, studies and control. It is headquartered in Mireval next to Montpellier.

"Ship wrecks are known to contain after a certain time more or less significant fish populations," the ministry said. "Here there are structures thought to have developed" a maximum number of fish although a minimum volume.

"Each module consists of a steel center buried deep in the sand and enclosed by two to three reinforced concrete cupolas two meters (6.5 feet) in diameter." These materials are known to be environmentally friendly, the ministry said.

These modules also will be arranged with structures to capture very young fish that could subsequently colonize the production models, according to the ministry.

Each module will weigh some 200 kilos (nearly 441 pounds) and will be built from environmentally friendly polymer composites.

The modules will be installed at 30-meter (98-foot) depths. The modules for the young fish will only be between 10-20 meters (nearly 33 to 65 feet). "At these depths, the bottom is sandy and there are almost only some carpets of algae that live there," the communiqué reported.

The ministry has installed signs along the channel to prohibit any fishing boats from using the passage between the artificial coral reef project and the airport's single runway. The signs also prohibit the anchoring of vessels, which would risk damaging the submerged structures.

There are many types of artificial coral reefs, but those being used in Tahiti are adapted to the site and do not interfere with ship movements. The 10-30-meter (nearly 33-foot to 98-foot) depth of the modules normally make them invisible from the surface.

After the development stage, which will take several years during which taking samples of fish will be prohibited, the modules will be opened for fishing, the ministry said. "But there will be specific regulations that aim to educate in the objective of sustainable resource management."

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