A Brief History of Artificial Reefs

Wildlife growth on the Scylla, Plymouth

Wildlife growth on the Scylla, Plymouth

Man made artificial reefs are not a new thing by any means.  The Japanese have been building them for over four hundred years to improve their fish stocks; they’ve been determined they won’t run out of sushi.  Canada, America and Australia, have been sinking ships as diver and angling attractions for up to thirty years or more.  Brazil is currently manufacturing concrete reef balls which have pioneered reef restoration throughout the world.  In India villagers make triangular concrete structures utilising the very sand from their beaches, then they sink them to redress the damage done by commercial trawling.  The list goes on.

In fact, only a few miles away, a reef is being constructed by a New Zealand company to facilitate wave formation for surfers.  This is happening now, off Bournemouth Beach.

Even closer to us in Poole Bay, Dr Ken Collins of Southampton University has been monitoring an artificial reef that he had constructed back in the eighties, and if any of you had been to one of his fascinating lectures on this subject you would have seen the resounding success of the increase in marine life in what was previously a relatively barren area.

Artificial reef

Artificial reef

The upshot is that artificial reefs work for whatever is asked of them.

There has been much academic research done on this subject worldwide, including Southampton Universities’ and all this is well documented.

By and large, this research shows that provided the obstacles used for artificial reefs are environmentally clean, and are heavy enough not to migrate from where they are placed, then the biodiversity of that area will increase dramatically.

Worldwide, artificial reefs pay for themselves through an increase within the local economy within two to five years.  The Scylla that was sunk in Whitsand Bay, Plymouth was ahead of the game and recouped the South West Regional Development Agency’s investment of £1.38 million within fourteen months.  It continues to generate over £1m annually.

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