MESAIEED, Qatar (AP) — Nine feet deep in the waters of the Persian Gulf, angelfish swim in and out of rusted trucks and SUVs. Plastic bags and water bottles, blown in from the nearby shoreline, float across the ocean floor.
World Cup fans in Qatar hoping to see some of the Gulf’s marine life visit the artificial reefs just off the coast of the tiny Arabian Peninsula. The underwater installations of stripped-down vehicles, bicycles, concrete blocks and toilets attract divers in the Arabian Gulf world and elsewhere.
The disused structures provide habitats for fish and invertebrates. Fish swarm in places that have experienced or never had much of a marine life decline, including this strip of ocean near the industrial city of Mesaeid. With barges and cranes, the hollowed-out vehicles are placed around which schools of fish swim.
Urbanization, fishing and climate change have profoundly disrupted marine life in the Persian Gulf. Artificial reefs attract fish and other marine life, but experts say they can also lead to increased fishing, attract invasive species and disrupt ecosystems. Scientists say they are not replacing natural reefs.
Close to the dive site, SUVs climb the rolling dunes that define the landscape. In the distance, groups of tourists on camels pass by. Never out of sight are the area’s sprawling oil refineries. Dive instructors park their SUVs and trucks along the shoreline to guide new groups of visitors to the underwater structures.
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