Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation

Reef Balls

Animals in the sea often compete for space. Corals and other animals that attach to hard surfaces need to find an open space to grow. Fish also need places to hide from predators. Artificial reefs create habitat for fish, coral, algae, and sponges. People have used all sorts of materials to make artificial reefs, from old ships and tanks, to blocks of concrete. BREEF decided in 2000 to purchase equipment to make Reef Balls, a specific type of artificial reef made out of concrete, and donate them to The Island School.

Reef Ball Development Company invented Reef Balls, and designed a system for making these hollowed-out igloos of concrete that resist storm waves, have a surface that allows corals to settle and grow, and have caverns that allow fish spaces to hide. Since 2000, students at The Island School have made over 50 reef balls and are studying which plants and animals colonize the artificial reefs.

Since then Island School students have reported seeing wrasses, grunts, groupers, doctor fish, snappers, butterfly fish, and many other species of fish on the reef balls. Students have placed reef balls close to natural reefs, far from natural reefs, on sandy bottom, on grassy bottom surfaces, and added halo structures of PVC to try and make the artificial reefs more attractive to sea creatures.

Students are placing reef balls in groups around the coast of The Island School, in an effort to prevent erosion of the soil around the coast. There is lots of water moving back and forth across the peninsula of The Island School, and waves and wind also tend to carry away sediment. Over time (and especially during storms) The Island School is losing land out to sea. So reef balls might not just be useful for attracting fish; they might also slow the rate of soil loss.

The teachers in the BREEF 4 workshop built their own Reef Ball on San Salvador. By getting their hands dirty and putting their back into it, BREEF workshop teachers are making an investment in the ocean. So many of the ways that humans can help the marine environment are by not doing something: not fishing undersized grouper, not spearing on scuba, not throwing an anchor on the reef, not touching corals with hands or fins, not taking juvenile conchs, not taking crawfish with eggs (berries). But it feels good to do something active to help the fish. Building a reef ball is one of the ways to connect teachers and their students to their role in protecting those good things in the sea that no one wants to see disappear.


Rolling a reefball into the water.