Take a sandy bottom on the ocean floor; add in a ship wreck or concrete rubble or anything that will make a nice artificial reef structure, mix in some time and we have a new dive site or a new community development.
Sure it takes time for the marine life to form on an artificial reef, just as it takes times for a builder to build homes and the roads and sewer lines and all that goes into a new community. As we know from our discussion on coral reefs, they only occupy about the size of the state of Nevada on the ocean floor. And a lot of them are in trouble. But by adding artificial reefs such as decommission ships or concrete statues or other items that are cleaned and prepared for that purpose we can add to and aid the marine environment.
When we place an artificial reef at first it is just barren on the sandy bottom. But after a short period of time the first schools of fish start to come by and move in. They find protection in the artificial reef. Soon, the algae start to attach to the artificial reef and slowly coral starts to grow. As the corals grow more marine life stop by the new neighborhood as there is now something to eat as well as protection. As the fish start to hang out on the artificial reef, the little cleaner shrimp and crabs arrive and hang out an open for business sign. This attracts even more marine life. Before we know it a whole new ecosystem has developed around and on our artificial reef.
Take for example the Vandenberg that was sunk in May of 2009. The artificial reef is already home to shallow and deep-water fish, such as barracuda, Goliath grouper, dorado and the occasional sailfish, attracted by the clouds of bait schooling around the wreck. Over the course of time the ship will be covered in sea fans and other coral species. Another example is the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Some have been in place for 30 years and are covered in many different coral species and are home to a wide variety of fish and other marine life.
So the next time you are on a dive boat and looking at a barren sandy bottom just picture an artificial reef placed there and we have a new dive site.