UK startup ARC Marine has received a starting loan from Virgin StartUp to design and build artificial reefs to protect indigenous white-clawed freshwater crayfish from the lethal effects of illegal fishing trawlers, which are decimating fish stocks worldwide. The structure will be set up at Vobster Quay, an inland water site and former quarry, near Radstock in Somerset.
ARC Marine was formed in 2015 to develop solutions for the long-term rehabilitation of damaged reef sea-beds. Since then, it has been developing design prototypes including artificial reefs and sea grass habitats.
Now the company has created what it calls the world’s first multi-functional artificial reef solution whose main goal is to protect fish and boost stocks of threatened species. With a strong, modular design, ARC’s reef systems are designed to protect against depth trawling, provide a superior marine habitat, act as an anchor point for cages and buoys, and protect marine structures and coastlines against underwater currents and erosion.
It has kicked off its project at the reef’s site because of Bristol Zoo nearby, with whom they are collaborating to regenerate crayfish. The UK white-clawed freshwater species is at particular risk because of habitat destruction and an invasive US breed, which is also more aggressive.
“Artificial reefs can be very useful in enhancing marine life, but also double up as anti-trawling devices,” Dr. Nicholas Higgs, Deputy Director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth’s COAST lab facility, said in a statement. “The ARC modules provide increased habitat complexity. By providing that living space, you should be able to increase the amount of crayfish that can live in habits like quarries and man-made water bodies,” he added.
The decaying health of the world’s oceans is a well-documented fact, due to pollution and carbon concentration that increases its acidity. To make matters worse, only 4 per cent of the world’s oceans are officially protected, according to WWF. Like the rainforest, they also play a key role as carbon sinks, as 93 percent of CO2 is stored in algae, undersea vegetation and coral, so protecting marine vegetation is key to climate mitigation efforts.
Then there is the overfishing issue. 53 per cent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32 per cent are over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion, also according to WWF. Experts predict a collapse by 2048 if current rates of exploitation and destruction carry on as they are.
“Oceans and waterways belong to everyone. So, the responsibility of marine conservation, and the challenge of reversing ocean degradation, is one that we all must collectively tackle,” said Tom Birbeck, co-founder of ARC Marine, which is also raising funds here.
Image credit: ARC Marine