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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Artificial Reefs- What are they and Why do we want them?

Happy New Year to everyone reading the Blog. We hope 2014 is going to bring prosperity and good health to you all.

Cyprus first artificial reef in Protaras: the Liberty WreckThings have started extremely well here in Cyprus with the Sinking of another Wreck to create an Artificial Reef (ok, so it went down on 20th December 2013 but who's counting?).

Our first wreck in Protaras, the Liberty, was sank in 2009 and has proved to be quite popular among divers
and fish life alike. However, the area was never closed off to fisherman, and as fast as the fish came in, they were swept back out again.

Now the Nemesis III has been sank in the same area and there is talk of a no-fishing zone being established around the wrecks to create a marine park, hopefully protecting the fish until they reach maturity and start to spill over.

What is an Artificial Reef and Why do we want them?

 An Artificial Reef is defined as "any human made underwater structure". They are usually made to promote fish life, control erosion etc. and although many people consider them to be relatively new, there are examples of Artificial Reefs being created by the Japanese back in the 1600s.

There are many objects that can be used to create artificial reefs but usually, they are items that are built but no longer fit for another purpose such as; cars, rigs and boats.

Protaras' second artificial reef in Cyprus

The benefits of the Artificial Reefs vary from economic to social to environmental.

Environmentally, an artificial reef can help to calm waters and influence currents, creating shelter and protection for fish life. It also serves as a visual reference for fish as they forage away from the reef itself. The development of the reef usually begins with the attraction of smaller organisms (barnacles, algae, sea squirts, bait fish) and the presence of these gradually attracts the larger pelagic fish. This in turn allows the rehabilitation of stressed natural habitations and can help to boost many fish species.

Socially and economically, the presence of artificial reefs can help to create jobs and funding in the area.

As an example, Plymouth in the Uk saw an annual increase of over a million pounds in the local economy, supporting jobs and tourism.

fish life grows on protaras' artificial reef, liberty wreckThe fishermen also benefit, as when the fish populations increase, there will be more catch. This must be done responsibly and sustainably though, so we would hope for a no fishing zone implemented and enforced around the reef to give the fish the opportunity to grow and mature.

In fact, the only dis-advantages of artificial reefs seem to arise when they are not implemented correctly (reef item is light enough to be carried away by tides and cuurents or not cleaned correctly).

So, the pros are clear to see. Particularly in an area such as Cyprus where we have such a wide variety of fish life that is stunted by over fishing. For us Divers, any new underwater playgrounds with fish we can gaze at with envy as they swim gracefully with ease through the ocean, are a bonus where we could spend hours, if we could.

Let's hope the authorities see the benefit of the no-fish Zone around our new Wrecks and Reefs and police the area while continuing to add to the great work they have started.

Maybe 2014 will be the Year of the Fish in Cyprus