Coral reefs are seen by most people as fragile structures painted in vibrant colors and teeming with life. Most coral reefs are in tropical waters and they are the most biodiverse environment to have ever existed on Earth. An estimated 9 million different species are found on coral reefs. In fact, coral reefs occupy only about 0.15% of the ocean but support more than 25% of the ocean’s species.
About one billion people depend on coral reefs for their food and work. Unfortunately, coral reefs are the most endangered environment on the planet and it is forecast that at current rates of destruction all will be gone by 2100.
Modern coral reefs have developed over the last 250 million years as the result of evolution, changing sea-level, and ocean currents. Coral can grow in new places but have always required Nature’s help in providing a sound substrate. Offshore structures like gas and oil platforms are often colonized by coral reef species looking for a place to settle and for protection but surface area is small.
ECO-Reefs offer an opportunity to give Nature a helping hand. ECO-Reefs are not like artificial reefs that attract little marine life due to poor design and unsuitable surface texture and chemistry. ECO-Reefs are engineered to re-purpose oil and gas platforms or to stand alone creating higher biodiversity and ocean productivity. ECO-Reefs are the result of more than 50 years’ experience working on coral reefs in the Caribbean, Great Barrier Reef, and S.E. Asia’s Coral Triangle.
Designs Inspired by Nature
Marine species are very specific about the reef spaces they will occupy. Volume to size ratio, position, afforded protection, availability of food, water movement, and proximity of competition are considerations in our artificial reef design. Our experience indicates that there are differing relationships between these factors and each species honed through millions of years of evolution.
ECO-Reefs mimic nature to suit marine species. By varying design, it is possible to develop different kinds of reef communities to suit our expectations. Each design optimizes the food web needed to provide the desired results. ECO-Reef designs fit into three overlapping categories.
ECO-Reefs can become the basis of a commercial/ recreational fishery. Small scale structures can assist food production for coastal communities and subsistence fishers. Large scale structures can drive amateur and big-game fisheries or become the province of a fishing company through fish ranching. Designs can be biased toward demersal or pelagic species.
Tourism and Recreational
The dive industry is the fastest growing sector of the water sports industry. ECO-Reefs can be designed to re-purpose oil and gas field platforms creating ‘must do’ experiences for divers. The combination of swim-throughs, caves, and colorful marine life will create awe inspiring experiences.
Free-standing ECO-Reefs can create dive sites in virtually any location. Designs can range from simple snorkeling experiences to cave and night diving. Shelter attracts marine life and our designs build the food web of a healthy reef where none existed before.
Coral Reef Conservation
Coral reefs around the world are being damaged by overfishing, pollution, and global warming. Using a ‘Noah’s Ark’ concept, many endangered species can be protected from extinction by building ECO-Reef’s proprietary super-high biodiversity structures away from damaging influences. This concept is now supported by numerous prominent coral reef experts. The ‘Noah’s Ark’ concept offers enormous public relations benefits as a CSR program for industry.
ECO-Reef surfaces are based on natural materials but, where possible, employ recycled materials for structural purposes (e.g. oil and gas pipe and steel as supports and stiffeners). Every effort is made to reduce the carbon footprint of the reef structures. Most structures will become carbon negative through time with the gradual accumulation of tonnes of coral and shell.
Life expectancy of the structures should exceed 150 years. By that time, it may be difficult to locate the original structure within a century of coral growth. Re-purposing an oil and gas platform into an ECO-Reef is making a positive statement for the next generation and the future of the planet.
Coral reefs are generally slow growing but there are species that grow quickly. Getting a re-purposed platform ‘up and running’ can be sped up by an order of magnitude by selecting appropriate ‘starter species’, by improving the surface chemistry, and by creating a special local environment that enhances calcification rates in stony corals.
Proprietary surface coatings accelerate coral settlemet and attachment rates. Advancing coral development years ahead of ordinary artificial reef structures.
Where tourism and recreation is planned, an on-site, small scale coral nursery can produce upwards of 10,000 small corals per year to get the project started. While growth depends on local species characteristics and environmental conditions, an ECO-Reef should be operational and well developed in about 5 years.
Fisheries reefs can be ‘quick-started’ through stocking programs where similar populations exist nearby. Harvests from fish ranching can be further increased through fish hatchery production and release onto ECO-Reef sites.
Make a Difference
There can be many financial benefits from re-purposing oil and gas platforms. There are also opportunities to improve the marine environment and make a real difference for the future.
Don’t build artificial reefs; build ECO-Reefs.