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Ocean Orchards

Large scale, profitable fishing industry by rejuvenating the seabed with fish-friendly habitat across large areas of trawler damaged seabed

Photo of Steve
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Herculean Climate Solutions

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

We have been working on this project for the last 3 years with several companies, NGOs and authorities. These include: T7 Global ReefCheck Malaysia University of Malaysia Terengganu Oceanography department Subcon Australian artificial reef builder We have also presented the project to Petronas, the Malaysian National Oil Company, The Department of Fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture. Ocean Orchards are now being considered as an option for

Website of Legally Registered Entity Singapore registered

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Kuala Lumpur

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

This project is initially aimed at the shallow waters off the coast of Terengganu, Malaysia. Area 1,000 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I have worked in Malaysia for the last 12 years on environmental projects related to the oil and gas industry. The Ocean Orchards project builds on and diversifies from this base. In the coming years, hundreds of old oil platforms will be decommissioned, and the Ocean Orchards project will use the old platform legs to build the best possible fish habitat.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The waters of South East Asia have been heavily trawled. This has damaged the fragile habitat on the seabed and led to a dramatic fall in fish populations. These waters have the potential to be highly productive

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Problem Most wild-caught fish are gathered with trawlers. This is a destructive technique which severely damages the fragile seabed environment, producing fish in the short term but reducing the primary productivity and long-term yield of the sea in the process. Product The primary product of Ocean Orchards will be the fish collected at these sites. A range of secondary products may include seaweed, shellfish, lobsters, crustaceans, sea cucumbers, etc. The Ocean Orchards concept can be further expanded to make large amounts of fish for the global MSC sustainable fish market. Dedicated companies will be set up to establish and run these areas. The establishment of Ocean Orchards will involve several interleaved activities including the installation process, management of the plantation areas, and the marketing of sustainable fish. This has led to collapsing fish stocks, low fisherman income and poor prospects for the fishing industry in the long term. This pattern is seen across the world as trawling and other unsustainable fishing techniques are used.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Solution – How – Intro to R2R Ocean Orchards are low-cost manmade structures that consist of hundreds of concrete blocks, rope, buoys and sections of old oil platforms to make 500m x 500m squares which provide a similar environment to existing oil rigs from a fish’s point of view – oil rigs are some of the highest productivity environments in the sea. A key part of the Ocean Orchards design is the use of fixed FADs (fish aggregating devices) which imitate the 'multi-storey’ habitat of oil rigs. Work by Claisse indicates that oil platforms can be 27 times more productive than neighbouring natural reef. The Ocean Orchard squares will be separated by lanes that allow conventional trawlers to fish. Sonar readings will be gathered to build up a data-rich model of the fish distribution in the area. Access to these lanes will be carefully controlled to ensure optimum population and catch. For Fishing Cooperatives, it is envisaged that a site 10km x 10km containing 100 individual Ocean Orchard squares will be a sustainable sized working unit Solution – What – Concept Large areas of seabed – eventually 1,000’s of km2 – will be licensed by governments to fisherman cooperatives and other operating companies who will layout and run Ocean Orchard areas. These cooperatives and companies will manage the resulting increased fish population to produce a truly sustainable supply of wild-caught fish in managed, purpose-designed fishing areas

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Custodianship and Social Impact The first large scale sites of 10km x 10km will be under the custodianship of a specially formed Fisherman’s Cooperative with the assistance of the MoA, DoF and LKIM. Larger scale commercial sites further offshore will be operated along the lines of Plantations by specially formed companies. These companies will raise funds, install Ocean Orchards, produce MSC fish and as an additional side benefit, generate significant Blue Carbon which can be sold as carbon credits. Income from the sale of sustainable fish will bring in large, steady income. Local – Ocean Orchards will bring significant opportunity to local fishing communities generating employment, revenue and investment. National – The new fishing areas will create an additional sector for GDP growth. This expanding area will be part of the gradual transition to a more diverse, low carbon economy Regional – Ocean Orchards can be a key area for cooperation with other ASEAN countries. The nations around the Coral Triangle all have large areas of heavily trawled seabed which can be rejuvenated by Ocean Orchards. International – Ocean Orchards are a positive, progressive measure to restore wildlife and diversity in the tropical waters of South East Asia while at the same time increasing the output of sustainably caught wild fish. The blue carbon created by the Ocean Orchard will also contribute to Malaysia's Paris Agreement commitments. Ocean Orchards also contribute to 11 of the 17 SDG goals

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Benchmarking of other success stories In Australia, RecFishWest have installed 20 artificial reefs that have made substantial improvements to the fishing stocks in nearby waters. The installation of these reefs and other artificial reefs around Malaysia, Asia and the rest of the world have demonstrated most of the techniques that will be used. The key difference with Ocean Orchards is that rig sections, reef blocks and FADs will be used together to create ‘closed’ areas with adjacent ‘open’ lanes where fishing can continue. This Open and Closed in the same space will be a world-first for which Malaysia is ideally suited. Ocean Orchards will greatly improve the condition of the seabed in Malaysian waters by, in effect, closing large numbers of small squares which will act as mini marine protected areas. Business Model The business model will be implemented in several phases: ● Establishing kilometre-sized Ocean Orchard areas to demonstrate the principle and allow the necessary scientific study to take place. ● Once demonstrated, larger Ocean Orchard areas 10km x 10km will be installed, operated by Fisherman’s Cooperatives. These new fishing areas will link the Fisherman’s Markets promoted by LKIM to a reliable supply of sustainable fish operated by each Cooperative Fishing Community ● In order to fulfil additional demand and expand export markets, plantation-style operations will be established further offshore, using a government-issued special permit. Specially formed companies will develop and operate these areas to produce MSC sustainable fish. ● The assistance of the Authorities will be needed to establish the necessary, licences, permits and laws for the operation of Ocean Orchard concession areas. Economics of Business Case Ocean Orchards will create significant employment, revenue and investment for Malaysia. This new enterprise will take several years to reach scale and has the potential to generate millions of tonnes of new fish and billions of dollars of additional revenue that does not exist today. It is intended, and necessary that the Ocean Orchards programme is a profitable enterprise which also rejuvenates the seabed. Only profitable businesses can sustain activity for the years necessary to move to this new form of fish husbandry. ● Financial support for the first Ocean Orchard fishing cooperatives will be required until they are self-sustaining from the income on fish sold ● Once the principle is demonstrated at the 10km x 10km, Cooperative scale, operating companies will raise their own finance to develop large scale Ocean Orchards further offshore and in other trawler damaged areas for the export market. ● Once established, focus will be on optimising the fish yield in the Ocean Orchard areas and managing the fish stock in a responsible and truly sustainable manner. ● Initial installation cost of 2 million MYR per km2 are anticipated (one 500m x 500m square plus the lanes on either side). One of the main objectives of the early work will be to drive the cost of installation down by using mass production style techniques. ● An Ocean Orchard area might take 12-24 months to become established. Thereafter the costs of installation should be recovered in 18-36 months Execution Plan The execution plan is in three parts: • Expand existing Pulau Kapas site to 500m x 500m with new reef blocks and FADs to demonstrate the Ocean Orchards principle. Work closely with local fishermen, UMT and DoF to gather the necessary scientific data • With LKIM, establish Fisherman’s Cooperatives that will operate a 10km x 10km Ocean Orchard sites to demonstrate operation at scale and to allow the necessary permitting, licensing and operating system to be established based on real operating experience • Building on the demonstration and Cooperative experiences, with specially established companies set up larger Ocean Orchard areas further from shore. Competition Although potentially viewed as a competitive approach, aquaculture is, in fact, complementary. Ocean Orchards and offshore aquaculture farms would both work better if they were built in the same area. Excess feed from fish farms would feed the Orchard, which would, in turn, keep the water clean and produce a wide range of natural local fish, shellfish, seaweed, sea cucumbers and other valuable products. Co-locating the activities would improve the economics of both. Product The primary product of Ocean Orchards will be the fish collected at these sites. A range of secondary products may include seaweed, shellfish, lobsters, crustaceans, sea cucumbers, etc. The Ocean Orchards concept can be further expanded to make large amounts of fish for the global MSC sustainable fish market. Dedicated companies will be set up to establish and run these areas. The establishment of Ocean Orchards will involve several interleaved activities including the installation process, management of the plantation areas, and the marketing of sustainable fish. Summary and Conclusion Ocean Orchards will become a major new industry for Malaysia where the fishing industry and nature work together in harmony to create an abundant new habitat. This managed habitat will increase fish output while preventing capture of all fish and the damaging of the fragile seabed. Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Security points are summarised below Way forward Interested parties work together to deliver the Pulau Kapas trial, prove that the concept is effective and then move onto larger Ocean Orchards operated by Fisherman’s Cooperatives.

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Photo of Nicole Civita

Hey Steve -- What a cool intervention for a very series problem in the marine parts of the food system. I was really interested in reading your description of the state of and destruction to the shallow waters off the coast of Terengganu, Malaysia. Your Ocean Orchards are a really interesting concept -- and they seem likely to make a real difference -- especially when paired with Fishermans Cooperatives. How will life change for members of the Cooperatives and other stakeholders? What other interventions could be paired with yours to have even greater impact? Who will be the primary beneficiaries of this new oceanic bounty?

Our vision is also for a region in Asia ( Maati-Paani-Asha: Regeneration of Hope, Health, Land & Community in the Face of Extreme Poverty & Climate Crisis ) -- though not a coastal one. Nevertheless, we'd welcome your comments.

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