The Science Behind the Fish Reef Project

Fish Reefs are designed to enhance fish habitats by providing additional structure that can increase the production of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Fish and other aquatic organisms are attracted to the new structures and begin to populate and breed in and around them. This in turn attracts more fish and aquatic life as a food chain develops.

Fish Reefs are Designed to:

  • Create complex spaces and habitats with differences in light, shade and water flow to encourage further colonisation of marine organisms. The reef structures can be tailored to suit the requirements of specific target species such as rock lobster, abalone, demersal (living on or near the seafloor) or pelagic finfish (living near to the surface or higher up in the water column).
  • Create an up-welling effect – diverting more nutrient-rich colder water from the seabed up in the water column. This creates food for plankton and larval fish, which attracts small fish, which in turn attracts larger fish.

As you can see by this example project site layout, our approach is quite simple.

International Experience Has Shown

That artificial reef structures provide clear environmental benefits and, in some cases, can support greater biodiversity than adjacent natural reefs.

Artificial reefs can generate social and economic benefits to the State and local communities by enhancing the local recreational fishing experience and tourism opportunities as a result.

Over 100 Peer Reviewed, Published Artificial Reef Studies

Check Out The Many Ways You Can Get Involved

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will the reef draw in life from other reefs or create new life?

A: Initially some life may migrate from other places, however very quickly the Fish Reef creates entirely new marine ecosystems that did not in exist in any way prior to reef creation.

Q: Won’t the reef look artificial or man made?

A: Not at all. The reefs become fully encrusted with algae, sea fans and invertebrates within one year. The reefs soon look exactly like natural habitat.

Q: What is the cost and time frame for each reef?

A: We estimate the first reef to cost $700k-$1m and take about a year to deploy. The cost and lead times should come down as we progress.

Q: Will the reef effect the surf in any way?

A: No, not in any way, shape or form. The reef are placed about 3/4 of a mile offshore in 36 – 40 feet of water and in no way effect any of our surf breaks.

Q: Will permitting be an issue?

A: The permitting is complex and requires funding and military-like discipline to negotiate. Nevertheless, due to the overwhelming support for this project from all sides the reefs can be and will be created.

Q: Will there be opposition from the extreme environmental movement?

A: Due to the very real environmental benefits of this project we expect to have support from all sides. However, there may be a few opponents who will seek to increase their own revenues by fighting this project. We will always take the moral high ground and keep the door open for them should they decide that making the ocean better is a priority.

Q: Some say man made reefs make such cozy homes for fish that they opt to stay in the caves instead of breed.

A: This notion is unproven and is unlikely, as the strongest drive in nature is to breed. It does not matter how nice one’s home is, eventually the need to procreate overrides.

Q: How do you decide on location?

A: Initial locations are not final. We plan to make a five-acre reef within 10 miles of every harbor in California, then onto Hawaii and Mexico. The reefs should be in 35 to 50 feet of water for best light penetration, far enough off shore not to disturb surf breaks. They are placed on empty mud bottom so as not to effect existing hard bottom habitat.

Q: How long does it take until a reef is fully mature?

A: Just 18 months for kelp and other life to take hold and several years to be fully mature.

Q: How will you monitor the reefs progress?

A: Marine biologist Rena Obernolte and others from noted Universities will perform five-year detailed scientific monitoring programs on the reefs. We will be creating near real time, strategic videos of the reefs’ progress that we can all access online.

Q: Do you have more scientific information?

For a more detailed explanation on how man-made reef projects work, visit Western Australia’s Department of Fisheries website.

Video log for existing artificial reefs in California

These reefs listed below were made for utility and not initially intended to be biological reefs:

  • Goleta Pipeline:  Video Here
  • Arco Island:  Video Here
  • Zuniga Jetty
  • Mission Beach Breakwater
  • Long Beach Breakwater
  • Marina Del rey Breakwater
  • Redondo BreakWater
  • Huntington Breakwater
  • NewPort Beach Breakwater
  • Dana Point breakWater
  • Channel Islands Breakwater
  • Hyperion Outfall Pipeline
  • Tanker Moorings in SM Bay
  • Point Loma Pitfall Pipeline
  • Ventura Breakwater
  • Gaviota Pipeline
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