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Diving on a Ship Wreck

2012 November 20

By Sandy Berman

Have you ever snorkeled at the site of a shipwreck or seen pictures of one covered in coral, and surrounded by fish? This is an example of an artificial reef. An artificial reef is a man-made sculpture, typically built for the purpose of promoting marine life.  The structure serves as a hard surface for the coral to form on, and ultimately attract other marine organisms, creating a new ecosystem in the given location. Common examples include tires, stone sculptures, oil rigs, abandoned anchors, but the one we hear about most is the ship wreck. While artificial reefs can be beneficial, there are also harmful consequences that can result from the structures.

I was recently given the opportunity to dive at the site of a ship wreck, and see the thriving reefs that have formed, first-hand. It was incredible to see, turtles swimming through the port holes, and fish inhabiting the various rooms of the Charlie Brown vessel. The Charlie Brown is one of many ships intentionally sunk in order to create an artificial reef. The benefits of these reefs include the attraction of tourists, the increase in habitat, research and fishing sites, and sometimes the reduction of landfill space. Every year various structures are dropped into our oceans, the problem is that many of them do not form such reefs, and instead act as an underwater landfill, or garbage disposal for unwanted trash. This can be harmful to the marine organisms and even deadly, as it crushes and entangles the pre-existing life.

It was very interesting to learn about and visit artificial reefs that are thriving with life, but it is important that we be aware that this is not always the case. It is important that we consider the negative effects that our actions have on marine life.

About the author: Sammy Berman was a summer intern at the EPA working in the Office of Regional Administrator. She is a junior at Gann Academy High School and is interested in marine biology.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

One Response leave one →
  1. Carson permalink
    May 20, 2013

    One would think that if they were intentionally dropping items to the sea floor to form reefs that they would know when a reef will be formed or not. The range of tolerance for the temperature and pH of the water surrounding a coral reef is very small. For example, although global ocean temperatures have only risen a few degrees celsius, we are already seeing the effects of this temperature rise. The increased temperature stresses the coral which causes it to expel the tiny zooxanthellae living inside of it. Without these creatures the coral loses its color, stops growing, and becomes brittle. This phenomenon is known as coral bleaching. By taking into account the many factors that allow the propagation of coral, it seems feasible for an organization to be able to map out areas where coral will most likely be able to survive and designate them as purposeful sinking zones.

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