Australia's Artificial Reefs

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Articles and How To's' started by Matt Rogers, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish Staff Member

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    A tourism board for South Queensland's Gold Coast plans to study the feasibility of building a man-made reef in 2010 to bring in more tourism dollars. It is hoped that the artificial reef would be attractive to first-time divers baby-stepping to the Great Barrier Reef found up north.

    Australia has a long history of making artificial reefs as outlined in a fascinating paper by D.A. Pollard - Artificial habitats for fisheries enhancements in the Australian region in the fall 1989 Marine Fisheries Review.

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    Artificial Reef - Photo Credit: The Wide Lens

    Australia's first man-made reef was made in 1965 in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne. It consisted of 330 waste concrete pipes sunk 5 miles off shore. Later efforts in the same area with more pipes, steel and a lot of automotive tires tied in bundles were observed to support good populations of fish including the Australian snapper.

    By 1968 efforts in Queensland included hundreds of car bodies, thousands of tires, concrete fish houses and sunken barges. Within close to five years the Hervey Bay reef was "covered with thick growths of soft corals, gorgonians, and sponges, and supported over 70 species of fishes, including many of recreational fishing importance, compared with only 15 fish species observed during preconstruction underwater surveys in this area." (Thompson, 1973)

    Studies of these artificial reefs showed that automotive tires in lots of five proved to be outstanding reef material. Vehicle bodies were also good although they only lasted about 5 years except in cooler temps where they lasted up to 20 years. There were several experiments with concrete fish houses or modules that resulted in rapid colonization from a variety of small reef fish.

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    Fish Modules - Photo Credit: Brazilian Journal of Oceanography


    Over the years more reefs with tires were made with mixed success. Some were found to placed in the wrong location or too deep while a few others were not anchored well and dispersed by storms. (Here is a link to a cleanup being done in the USA after the tires got loose: Synthstuff - music, photography and more...: Unintended consequences - An artificial reef)

    When successful, oysters, polychaete tubeworms, and a variety of algae and fish were attracted to the tires.

    In the late 1970s, Australia began experimenting with fish aggregation devices (FAD's) that were placed on or near the water's surface. These early FADs were often made with PVC pipe frames and covered in vinyl cloth or plastic mesh and found to attract many species of pelagic fish including yellowtail kingfish and skipjack tuna before frequently being broken up by storms or strong current. A sportfishing club recorded "158 dolphin fish being tagged and released in one session" in 1986 near a FAD off of Coffs Harbour.

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    FAD- Fish Aggregation Device - Photo Credit: NOAA

    One notable fish aggregation device from the late 1980s had reflective panels on its submerged surfaces that when combined with wave action and spinning from a water nozzle placed above the water surface, would flash sunlight deep underwater attracting schools of baitfish and large predators such as "marlin, kingfish, dolphin fish, and various species of tunas." (AnsonSmith, 1987)

    Australia was also home to experiments with "artificial seagrass units" (ASU's). ASU's had bunches of plastic leaves and man-made fibers that after being submerged near natural seagrass beds were observed to attract macro-fauna similar to the real thing.

    Australia was a pioneer in using limestone rock and studies concluded that "the distribution of species among units is a result of chance colonization, not of a systematic partitioning of the living space provided."

    Derelict vessels were proven to be successful artificial reefs. There are ample supplies near big port cities such as Sydney and they are usually prepared and transported free to the sinking site by owners eager to dispose of them.

    Australia's history with artificial reef making is vast as shown in this overview. It is fair to say that the tourism board planning to build a new reef on the Gold Coast in 2010 will need not go far to get some ideas.



    matt

    Source and a great read:
    Artificial habitats for fisheries enhancements in the Australian region | Marine Fisheries Review | Find Articles at BNET

    2010 artificial reef plan for the Gold Coast:
    Fake reef plan for Gold Coast

    Further reading:
    Technical reports

    Brazilian Journal of Oceanography - Fish community modeling agents on an artificial reef on the northern coast of Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

    Artificial Reef- Ocean Brick System at The Wide Lens- Photography Stories
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2010
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  3. Pelado

    Pelado Montipora Digitata

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    Very interesting thread.... thanks for the info!!
  4. homegrowncorals

    homegrowncorals Ribbon Eel

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    Thanks Matt
    that has some very good information was an interesting read.
  5. jakeh24

    jakeh24 Pajama Cardinal

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    cool stuff

    thanks matt
  6. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish Staff Member

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    Thanks all!

    I should add that the artificial sea grass was shown to contain fish larvae and that it was shown to be affective to establish some artificial reefs as no-fishing zones in order to seed other areas and rebound stocks.