The Science Behind The Fish Reef Project

Fish Reef Project designs and deploys Fish Reef Units 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.

Our designs create an up-welling effect, diverting colder, nutrient-rich 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.

Each unique Fish Reef design creates complex spaces and habitats, with differences in light, shade and water flow, to encourage further colonization 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 fin fish (living near to the surface or higher up in the water column).

Our initial Fish Reef Units are based on a 50 year old, Japanese design called a Turtle Block. The Turtle Block has been used with great success for decades which is why we chose it.

Image: SCE Study on Japanese Artificial Reefs, 1983

International Experience Has Proven

Man-made 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 state and local communities by enhancing the local fisheries and tourism opportunities.

Over 100 Peer Reviewed, Published Artificial Reef Studies

Malaysia Deploys New Science Backed Reefs

UN/ FAO Deploys Reef for Food Security in the Mediterranean

Permanent Observer

Fish Reef Project is proud to have had an integral role as a permanent observer at the United Nations International Seabed Authority. For six years Fish Reef Project has worked with many nations, NGOs and International Seabed Authority staff to ensure the best possible protection and enhancement of the marine ecosystem as it relates to the coming deep sea mining. In 5,000 meters of water, in the central Pacific, mankind will soon harvest minerals vital to green technologies such as electric vehicles, wind, solar and aerospace. The minerals come in the form of manganese nodules that litter the vast deep sea mud flats. After they are removed, due to our efforts, restoration in some form will be required and Fish Reef Project looks forward to enabling such restoration efforts for years to come.

Fish Reef Project is busy designing and testing cutting edge reef designs that are tailored to the needs of specific marine ecosystem, water chemistry and ocean conditions.

Fish Reef Units: Materials & Designs

Quarry Rock

California Quarry Rock (Quartz)
.5ton ~ 1ton Boulders
Surface Area

Sea Dome™

Marine Concrete
Surface Area

Sea Tunnel™

Marine Concrete
Surface Area

Sea Lily™

Marine Concrete
Surface Area
128 ft^2

Sea Cave™

Marine Concrete
Surface Area

Sea Ledge™

Marine Concrete
Surface Area

What is Marine Concrete?

Marine concrete is a special formulated blend of cement that uses high levels of micro fume silica to bring the concrete’s pH to match that of sea water – it also reduces any potential of off gassing. The marine life created by the Fish Reefs remove more carbon that is ever released from making the concrete, so in the long run it is actually carbon negative.

Pressure Testing The Reef Units

The Fish Reef Units undergo a pressure test to ensure they can withstand the enormous amount of pressure at different water depths.

Sea Cave Reef™

Sea Tunnel Reef™


Get The Facts

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: 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: 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: 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: Leading marine biologists 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.

Existing Artificial Reefs in California

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with private interests, have made many artificial reefs in California. However, little if any real time information exists for the reefs. To serve the public, government agencies and academia, the Fish Reef Project will be creating compelling, high quality video for each artificial reef 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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