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By next week, 30 reef balls will be strategically placed along the South Coast of Barbados in an effort to provide artificial housing for fish. They will also form a protective barrier for the coastline, in light of the damage caused by destructive waves particularly during the hurricane season. An initiative of the Barbados Marine Trust, the first phase of this $100 000 project was officially launched yesterday and according to co-ordinator of the project, Michael Webster, the balls will be placed on a site located between the Savannah and Amaryllis hotels in Christ Church. ?It is going to create a habitat not only for fish, but also lobsters and sea cats and we can actually custom design these reefs in the future to create exactly what we wish. Our vision is to have something not only beautiful, but sustainable fisheries as well.? Webster, also the director of the Marine Trust, explained that the area, which is virtually barren, was chosen since it is sandy and the placement of the 6 000 pound balls on already existing coral was to be avoided at all costs. He said that it is of critical importance that Barba-dians adopt a more proactive approach, especially when dealing with the conservation of our coasts, in light of extensive damage done during the hurricane season. Made by Preconco Ltd., the balls are created of coral stone, cement, silica sand and fibermesh. They include a gaping hole at the top to ensure that fish or turtles are not trapped inside. The co-ordinator explained that the project will be studied over the next 18 months by the University of the West Indies to gauge its success, and feasibility for similar projects in the future. Acknowledging the financial implications of placing the reef balls in areas most affected by coastal erosion and a decrease in fish populations, Webster added that the Marine Trust will be looking towards selling the reef forming balls to both tourists and locals. With one ball worth approximately $500. He said that not only would it create a sustainable eco-system, but would attract persons owning a ball to return to the site to gauge its progress. Furthermore, president of the Marine Trust, Peter Barrow, said that in addition to working with the Coastal Zone Management Unit and other stakeholders to ensure the proper management of the South Coast, a course in underwater archaeology is also being explored in the near future. While the project was delayed pending permission from the Town and Country Planning Department?s official approval, Webster thanked all the stakeholders for seeing this project to fruition. These include the Fisheries Department, the Harbour Master, the National Conservation Commission, James Blades and Charles Blades

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