Sealife flourishing on concrete reefs

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An experiment to make "fish ranches" off the west of Scotland by building artificial reefs out of concrete has been an outstanding success.

An experiment to make "fish ranches" off the west of Scotland by building artificial reefs out of concrete has been an outstanding success.

Scientists who built 12 reefs in an area not previously been used for fishing at the Lynn of Lorn, near the island of Lismore, said they were teeming with fish and shellfish.

The Scottish Association for Marine Science, in Oban, began the experiment a year ago in an attempt to discover whether large-scale reefs would be viable for commercial fishing. Since then, 600 tons of concrete blocks have been sunk to the seabed.

Martin Sayer, who is directing the project, said there were early indications that the project had encouraged sealife to shelter and breed in the blocks. Even if large-scale fishing was not profitable enough, Dr Sayer suggested, the reefs could provide a useful business.

"With lobster for example, it does not require a large number of animals to be caught to sustain a small fishery. It is possible that if you optimise the catch, quite a few fishing jobs could be supported," he said.

"There are already actually large numbers of juvenile cod and other cod species. They will only stay there the first year of their life but they will have a chance to grow before they move away to other areas. Initial results show there are very positive results just from visual records alone."

In two years, the group plans to have a million blocks of concrete, donated by a local firm, sunk to the bottom of the sea. They could give coastal communities the chance to offer an alternative livelihood to fishermen hit by recent European Union cuts in quotas of cod and other fish.

Dr Sayer said: "Reefs such as this are very widespread in places like the United States, Australia and Japan but they have never been attempted on this scale before. The overall objective is to see whether these reefs on a large scale will make any impact as a commercial fishery or if they could act as providers for commercial fisheries."

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