Eight ships and one airplane sit on the ocean floor around Vancouver Island in an effort to help marine life.
Deliberately submerged to create artificial reefs, UVic student Desirée Bulger is investigating just how effective they actually are.
When starting her research she had three questions: What structures make the best artificial reefs; how do they compare to natural reefs; and how well do they serve as habitats for rockfish. Her latest venture is also using sonar technology to map out some of the artificial reefs.
Her research is set to be published later this month.
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The most visible difference observed between natural and artificial was consistency, according to Bulger.
“With natural reefs, the growth and rockfish populations were relatively consistent. On the ships and planes, I saw some had a lot of rockfish while others not so much.”
She also noticed that the most successful wrecks were found at the largest depths and the older the wreck the more rockfish were likely to be there.
Saying hello to the #perch pilots 20 meters down, on the #Boeing737 wreck! Also featuring plumose anemones, crinoids and sea cucumbers.#ArtificialReef #Ecosystem #MarineTechnology pic.twitter.com/gQOmQ8CNWV— Desiree Bulger (@Desirecology) December 12, 2017
Rockfish populations are particularly important because they are a key part of the food chain. They are also fished commercially making them a valuable economic resource. This research could help stabilize their population which is important as some species are currently listed as under special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. One of those species proved to be very successful in some of the artificial reefs, says Bulger.
“Threatened quillback rockfish made up a large proportion of the fish observed – this is important when looking at it from a conservation standpoint.”
The reefs she was exploring were created by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, you can find more information about the ships and plane they’ve sunk through their site.
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According to the ARSBC, these artificial reefs play a key role in stabilizing the marine life around the province.
“The diversity of marine life along BC’s coastline is under increasing stress through overfishing, ecological damage, pollution, and loss of habitat. Artificial reefs in the form of large steel vessels address this issue by providing new habitat opportunities in areas without significant natural reef structures.”