Wrecks and Masks- Artificial reefs



Masks and Wrecks- What do they have in common?


Have you ever been in a social setting be it with extended family or friends on a day when something unpleasant had just happened[ a fight with a dear friend, a big glitch at work, or just that you are feeling extremely vulnerable emotionally] but when you are approached and faced with the almost meaningless greet “ Hi there, its been a while, how are you doing?”. You can’t help yourself but plaster a broad smile, cordially respond and hope you were convincing enough? We wear masks- Be it when we are called to present something but we are second guessing ourselves, or when your boss beaming with pride asks you about his/ her new car which you personally feel is too flashy or is a fuel guzzler . Till we humans reach a level of emotional maturity and security, masks help protect our otherwise fragile ego, psyche and emotion.


Where am I going with this?- Artificial Reefs

World over, I dare say that the “ business” of building / placing artificial reefs is steadily growing in terms of scale, diversity in method, design, and structure. Of course. What then is an artificial reef and why the interest in artificial reefs? For one, it provides a new habitat for marine life and thus promises to be valuable for the dive, snorkelling and fishing industry. Artificial reefs can thus provide an alternative site for human activity and prospectively sheltering natural reefs from over capacity, reckless and perhaps even clumsy ocean users. In some regions, artificial reefs are know to be effective in keeping encroaching bottom trawlers out and in some instances successful for providing refuge for juvenile fish populations. The outcomes of artificial reef initiatives have however not always been desirable. What if this new reef serves as a fish aggregate anding devise which then allows marine life to be a sitting target for fishermen? What if the structure of the reef damages the natural environment?


Coincidentally, the waters off Broward County, Florida is no stranger to such a disaster. In the 70’s and perhaps even earlier, there was not much that can be done with old and discarded vehicle tyres and it was thought [ even in North Eastern America, Gulf of Mexico , Indonesia and even Malaysia] that these tyres, when bundled and fastened together, could be dumped / dropped into the ocean floor and it would be an artificial reef. So, tyres were collected, bundled and fastened not in the hundreds, nor in the thousands but hundreds of thousands were dropped into the sea off Florida [ over 1 million tyres which were bundled with steel and other material and dumped in the ocean consuming about 30 acres] Time would tell if this then seemingly brilliant plan [ reef was named Osborne reef] would fan out. Unfortunately, not only was there sparse marine life, but whatever little which managed to latch on to this reef was loss when the fasteners could no longer hold and the tyres sprung free, now individually light and at the mercy of strong tropical currents and strong hurricanes which frequented the region. What a disaster as these loosely navigating objects destructively rammed into natural marine structure and life and occasionally washing up to the shore. Much has been done and is continued to be done to now eliminate further threats via operations to remove the tyres.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/22/florida-retrieving-700000-tires-after-failed-bid-to-create-artifical-reef


I suppose we learn from our failures all be it painful and expensive lessons. one other structure which is a common favourite for artificial reefs is ship wrecks and derelict oil rigs/ platforms. This day, there are generally stringent procedures and regulations on preparatory steps for sinking a wreck to determining site for sinking with defined buffers and so forth.

Whilst the jury is still out on the net benefits of artificial reefs, one prolific plus which I never much considered resurfaced, as I sat in the conference room of the Broward County Environmental Protection and Growth Management Conference Room yesterday. The marine resource team at Broward County no doubt exude immense passion for the work they carry out ranging from beach nourishment, placement of artificial reefs, manatee conservation, amongst others as they shared with us their projects, successes and challenges.

The point driven home was that artificial reefs provide an opportunity for us human users to indulge in marine leisure’s and perhaps even commercial activity. Artificial reefs plays the part of a mask which hopefully distracts, satisfies, and occupy us humans so that the sanctity and integrity of natural reeves can be preserved.

isle 3

Photo belongs to Broward County- [ part of a slide presentation]

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