ECO-Reefs: Some Background and Comparison with Other Artificial Reefs

With the gradual global collapse of offshore fisheries predicted for 2050 and a growing world population, there is an urgent need to increase ocean production of seafood. Fizzy Transition Ventures works to rehabilitate damaged natural reef systems (see our Coral Nursey page). In this we construct new reefs to meet food production demands while increasing biodiversity. In this paper, we share the thinking behind Fizzy’s ECO-Reefs. In particular, we focus on the potential for developing oil and gas jackets into highly productive and biodiverse artificial reefs.

Summary

  • Most artificial reefs make only a limited net contribution to secondary productivity. Their designs are insufficiently effective, lacking in both surface area and three dimensional ‘texture’.
  • Fish aggregating devices do recruit planktonic and juvenile marine life, but provide no satisfactory habitat or food supply for growing adults.
  • Some oil and gas jackets contribute much more to secondary productivity than artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices. Once they have been in the water for many years, many of them develop into valuable parts of the marine ecosystem. Hence removal to shore may have a negative impact on ecological productivity and biodiversity.
  • Disused oil and gas jackets can be repurposed to produce revenue from other streams, while improving the ocean environment.
  • However, like artificial reefs, “reefed” oil and gas jackets have limited surface texture. So they provide lower biodiversity and reproductive capacity than natural reefs even if productivity is high. Hence, most fish populations are unsustainable, relying on the continued recruitment of new individuals from surrounding plankton.
  • With our ECO-Reefs we build on experiences with both artificial reefs, fish attraction devices and ‘jacket reefs’. They are designed to improve on all these methods of reef building and can be biased toward ecosystem restoration, tourism, or fisheries production through the varied use of shape and texture.
  • “ECO-Reefing” an oil and gas jacket instead of removing it to shore could generate a new source of income, food and jobs for local communities. It could also increase marine biodiversity and provide beneficial public relations far into the future.

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