A recently retired 65ft trawler is joining a large barge and 20 aged Army vehicles in a extensive fish conservation programme off the South Carolina coastline in the US.
Alongside an experimental concrete structure, they have all been dropped by workers from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCNR) into 50ft of water to become the most recent additions to the state’s artificial reef system. It is the latest project funded by the Sea Hunt Boat Company and the Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA SA), which has provided support for 14 similar projects to date.
The work has been carried out at the C.J. Davidson Reef, which is situated off the coastline of Georgetown. Biologists have also constructed and sunk a number of new concrete designs at the popular Charleston 60’ Reef. Using octagonal structures originally developed for erosion control, eight structures of various heights and configurations have been made to provide fish habitat on the seabed.
“These have not been used specifically as fish habitat before,” said Robert Martore, who leads the artificial reef programme. “We will monitor the structures and if they attract and hold significant numbers of fish, we will make more and distribute them along the coast.”
Artificial reefs play a similar role in the ocean as coral reefs, which cannot grow in the temperate waters off the coast of South Carolina. The man-made structures are typically placed on areas of the sea floor with little natural relief, improving habitat and spawning grounds for a diverse array of fish and marine life – and in turn attracting anglers.
SCDNR biologists have been constructing artificial reefs to improve offshore fish populations and fishing opportunities for over 40 years, sinking everything from bridge spans to military vehicles and subway cars. “The environmental benefits of artificial reefs are twofold,” says the SCDNR. “They recycle materials that would otherwise be destined for landfills in addition to expanding critical habitat for offshore fish.
“The structures intended for artificial reefs undergo a rigourous cleaning process to ensure they are safe to sink. On average it takes about six months after being sunk for reef structures to be colonised by the marine organisms and become a functional fish habitat.”