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ARTificial reefs

Curtis Champion, 08 May 2018.

Artificial reefs are commonly deployed off coastlines around the world to restore degraded marine habitats and provide new fishing opportunities, but they also provide an opportunity to put a little art into the ocean.

Photo credit: Jason deCaires Taylor (

Artificial reefs have become popular tools for enhancing the ecological function of marine environments and creating novel fishing opportunities, with some studies finding them highly effective at achieving their desired management objectives. These reefs have come a long way from the materials of opportunity they were once constructed from (like old cars and scuttled ships) and are now commonly purpose-built with specially designed habitat features catering for specific marine critters. These reefs have become commonplace off the coastline of Australia, with perhaps the most renowned being 15 meters tall and located 1.2 km off Sydney Harbour’s South Head in 36 metres of water.

Artificial reefs have also been deployed in marine environments for other, less ecological, reasons. Underwater sculptural installations that also function as marine habitats represent a captivating cross-over of science and art, particularly when these sculptures are colonised and take on new underwater forms. Jason deCaires Taylor is the artist behind these underwater instillations. Jason is acutely aware of the potential for his creations to become part of the broader seascape, and designs these ARTifical reefs according:

“Artificial reefs can attract a host of marine species including corals, sponges, hydroids and algae, increasing overall reef biomass and aggregating fish species, which in turn can support an entire marine ecosystem. The sculptures are individually designed using safe pH neutral materials with textured surfaces to create homes, breeding areas and protective spaces. These permanent structures are fixed to the seabed to avoid being displaced by storms and adverse weather conditions.”

For more on Jason deCaires Taylor’s artistic reefs:

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