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Integrated Artificial reefs

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Reefing offshore structures can provide many long term economic benefits to their associated communities. Whilst in some cases they can deliver cost benefits to the project, Operators and Governments typically participate in these projects because they provide ongoing benefits to the local communities involved. They often have a neutral cost benefit to the Operator.

Furthermore people often don’t realise that decommissioning is a shared cost between the state and the operator. Typically decommissioning costs are recognised by governments as a tax deductible capital expense. This means the Operator pays less tax and in some jurisdictions like Australia and the UK they receive a rebate for royalties already paid. We simply think this is a waste of public funds.

Finally, reefing structures is great for the environment! Why remove a productive ecosystem from an environment that’s already under so much pressure? It just doesn’t make sense.

FAQ’s

Reefing offshore structures can provide many long term economic benefits to their associated communities. Whilst in some cases they can deliver cost benefits to the project, Operators and Governments typically participate in these projects because they provide ongoing benefits to the local communities involved. They often have a neutral cost benefit to the Operator.

Furthermore people often don’t realise that decommissioning is a shared cost between the state and the operator. Typically decommissioning costs are recognised by governments as a tax deductible capital expense. This means the Operator pays less tax and in some jurisdictions like Australia and the UK they receive a rebate for royalties already paid. We simply think this is a waste of public funds.

Finally, reefing structures is great for the environment! Why remove a productive ecosystem from an environment that’s already under so much pressure? It just doesn’t make sense.

The attraction-production question was raised as early as the 1970s, when artificial reef research first started to increase in popularity (Bohnsack & Sutherland, 1985) (Silva Lima, Rosental Zalmon, & Love, 2019). The long history of use of artificial reefs has emphasised the need to resolve the attraction-production issue as it has implications in particular for fisheries management (Polovina & Sakai, 1989) (Moon, Otake, & Kim, 2018).

Arguments that reefs are simply aggregation devices that make catching fish easier are disingenuous and ignore the science which conclusively demonstrates they engineered ecosystems are productive habitats that are critical to creating abundance in our oceans.

In the first instance it must be recognised that fish life cycles typically involve many different habitats (they may spawn in estuaries, mature on shallow reefs and migrate to deeper waters upon adulthood). All reefs, whether natural or engineered are therefore both attractive and productive. Consider that anthropogenic impacts have caused broad acre marine habitat loss and that this is now identified by the UN as one of the key drivers in fish stock decline. We believe we should be focussed how to reintroduce habitat complexity and therefore productivity on a similar scale.

Many fish populations are limited to available habitat (i.e. hard substrata) and therefore an increase in habitat (e.g. via the installation of an artificial reef) will increase the carrying capacity and thus increase the ecological productivity and biomass of the area. If habitats are saturated then artificial reefs will produce new fish (Wilson, Osenberg, St. Mary, Watson, & Lindberg, 2001) (Powers, Grabowski, Peterson, & Lindberg, 2003). Conversely, attraction theory is when a habitat or structure serves only to attract fish from surrounding areas due to behavioural preferences, without increasing the biomass or carrying capacity of the population (Pickering & Whitmarsh, 1997).

Biomass is often used as a metric to quantify attraction and production as it quantifies attraction as well as all facets of production which may include population growth or an increase in size of the existing population. The current state of the argument is that it is likely rare in practice that attraction and production are mutually exclusive and both likely affect the assemblages on artificial reefs (Shin, Cheung, Tsang, & Wai, 2014). Production especially may manifest itself in different ways such as, improved survival, relocation of fishing effort, attraction of a permanent population, or provisioning food to improve survival of juveniles, or optimising zooplanktivorous fish abundance whilst avoiding food limitation (Champion, Suthers, & Smith, 2015) (Fabi, et al., 2015).

Engineered reefs have by shown to support up to six times more biomass than existing, un- damaged natural reefs.

Reefing offshore structures can provide many long term economic benefits to their associated communities. Whilst in some cases they can deliver cost benefits to the project, Operators and Governments typically participate in these projects because they provide ongoing benefits to the local communities involved. They often have a neutral cost benefit to the Operator.

Furthermore people often don’t realise that decommissioning is a shared cost between the state and the operator. Typically decommissioning costs are recognised by governments as a tax deductible capital expense. This means the Operator pays less tax and in some jurisdictions like Australia and the UK they receive a rebate for royalties already paid. We simply think this is a waste of public funds.

Finally, building new integrated reefs is great for the environment!

Artificial reefs mimic the characteristics of natural reefs. By creating new habitats, providing shelter and feeding opportunities, changing water flow dynamics and activating internal reef voids, purpose built reefs have been shown to be many times more productive than natural reef systems. It is common practice to ensure reef are larger than 800m3 in order to ensure they become habitat production devices, rather than simply drawing fish in from other areas. For example the 27,000m3 of new habitat used to create the Exmouth reef is more than 30 times larger than the volume required for a reef to be considered productive. King Reef at Exmouth has recruited multiple populations of juvenile Red Emperor over multiple year classes demonstrating outstanding productivity in a degraded fishery.

Some artificial reefs used to be made from sunken ships, tyres and similar materials. While they do work to some degree, they can have some negative impacts on the marine environment including leaching of pollutants and stability issues. Tyre reefs have also proven to be a poor settlement medium meaning reefs made from tyres show limited growth and do not promote production. Poor positioning and management of these reefs has also resulted on materials becoming separated from the reef and damaging nearby natural reefs.

Subcon enlists the help of the community to monitor our artificial reefs through our partnership with the Recfishwest and their world leading citizen science program called ‘Reef Vision’. Reef Vision uses baited underwater video camera’s to record the life on the reefs which is then analysed by research officers. Read more about Reef Vision and Recfishwest here.

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