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.