What an Artificial Reef Needs to Thrive

What an Artificial Reef Needs to Thrive

Safe haven mini attractor

Pollution takes many forms, from the fast food bags and wrappers you see scattered on the side of the road to the carbon dioxide being released into our atmosphere. However, one of the most harmful forms of this unfortunately common habit comes from the debris that winds up in our oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds: not only do toxic chemicals kill off a high number of species, but plastics and other debris can sometimes trap or injure fish, birds and mammals, further endangering the environment. However, a number of studies have revealed that certain man-made implements can actually replace dying reefs, helping both populations of fish and fishermen. But as information on the subject of these artificial fish structures increases, it becomes clear that building a successful fish habitat depends not only on design, but also material.

People have been building artificial fish structures for centuries: for example, Japan has been building artificial reefs for generations which now support a biomass that is 20 times greater than natural reefs of the same size. Similarly, a number of coastlines in the United States have allowed decommissioned oil rigs to become part of the marine landscape, attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of fish and allowing fisherman to take advantage of a rich fishing landscape. These multipurpose fish attractors have been found to support 27 times the fish of a natural reef, meaning that structures that were formerly considered harmful could actually benefit the ocean.

However, not every bit of refuse can be used to form these artificial fish structures: scientists report that corals have difficulty spreading over metals, while objects like cars will disintegrate in less than ten years. Moreover, many species avoid certain paints, enamels, plastics and rubbers, a fact that has caused many artificial reefs to fail. In one of the biggest missteps, roughly two million tires sunk off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the 1970s have attracted little sea life, and sometimes break free of their barricades, smashing into valuable natural reefs and destroying the sea floor.

Because of the features artificial fish structures must have to thrive, a number of special designs and materials have been unveiled to help attract fish and replace dying reefs. In oceanic environments, for example, fishermen, environmental groups, and other organizations are increasingly using “reef balls”, circular, concrete structures made from a compound that contains microsilica and a sugar-based solution, which lowers the structures acidity and also makes it easier for coral to attach to the surface. The circles are also easy for fishermen to detect on their GPS systems, helping local fishing industries. Similarly, artificial fish structures for freshwater bodies use natural colors, textures, and flexible limbs to create an effective and realistic method of drawing fish and replacing lost habitats. If you are interested in recreating fish habitats in your area, start researching these structures today!

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