Marine Artificial Reef Research and Development: Integrating Fisheries Management Objectives

Re-Exploring the Application of Artificial Reefs for Community-Based Fishery Management in Malaysia

Jarina Mohd Jani, Elizabeth Olson, and Genevieve Patenaude


Abstract.—Artificial reefs quickly became important in Malaysian fisheries management after their introduction in the 1970s. Their popularity lies in their potential for rehabilitating and enhancing coastal resources, particularly after the establishment of legal protection for coastal resources via regulations regarding fishing zonation in 1985. These human-made substrates were created from various materials, from tires to concrete structures. These structures were meant to create permanent sites conceptually similar to traditional artificial reefs deployed by local fishers that were more temporary in nature. Studies conducted up to the 1990s indicated that artificial reefs had the potential to bring resource users and managers together to establish a community-based management of small-scale coastal fisheries. However, the degree of progress made toward using artificial reefs to bring together users and managers remained obscure. Subsequently, a case study conducted between 2008 and 2010 used the sustainable livelihood approach to gain the perspectives of small-scale fishers on artificial reefs in Terengganu. This paper revisits the potential and challenges of using artificial reefs to implement a community-based fishery management approach. Focus is given to the institutional arrangements, both indigenous and official, that mediate the use of artificial reefs by small-scale fishers in Setiu. While many enabling factors exist, institutional weaknesses that impede a more inclusive management structure also persist. The importance of leveraging traditional fishing codes of conduct to manage access to artificial reefs is highlighted as the key to realizing the potential of deploying artificial reefs to enhance livelihoods based on sustainable fisheries resources.