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Carp condos: Artificial reefs provide more than just fun for sport divers. They also provide a safe habitat for a variety of underwater animals. (Submitted photo)
Carp condos: Artificial reefs provide more than just fun for sport divers. They also provide a safe habitat for a variety of underwater animals. (Submitted photo)
Reef balls give fish artificial homes to live in
By Jennifer Taplin
The Daily News

BEDFORD - To a fish swimming along on its fishy business, a massive ship hitting the ocean floor is nothing but an opportunity.

Artificial reefs may be good for tourism, but they also make good fish habitats.

Glyn Sharp, a marine biologist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, said whether artificial reefs are designed for fish or for scuba divers, it helps out the local fish population.

"You put in these habitats and it's not a matter of new fish being born, (but) you very quickly have it being utilized by existing fish populations."

Artificial reefs provide a place where the small fish can hide from the big fish.

While it's difficult to prove if artificial reefs translate to bigger fish populations overall, Sharp said there are studies that show reefs enhance production for many different species.

The only bad news is for the organisms -- like clams and worms -- living in the sediment where the ship lands.

"The footprint of the artificial reef will obliterate those populations, but the positive thing usually is you now have created a more complex environment."

Scientists design artificial reefs specifically for fish habitats. There are several locations around Nova Scotia where "reef balls" are used, such as near McNabs Island, Paddy's Head at St. Margarets Bay and in the approach to Bras d'Or Lakes.

Reef balls are hollow, spotted with holes, and made of concrete. They're shaped like domes or bells, and usually at most about four feet high.

Bruce Young, with the Atlantic Coastal Action Program based in Sydney, said they bought reef ball molds and placed 12 balls near New Campbellton in 2004.

"The reef balls weren't originally designed for lobster habitat, but we've put some edges on the bottom of them so they can become a crevice for the lobster to back his way in.

Within minutes of positioning the reef balls, a lobster moved in, he said.

ACAP installed the reef at the request of local groups, and they still have the molds. Young said they're hoping to generate more interest in the area to use the molds again.

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Could artificial reefs become a vital part of the Nova Scotia tourism industry? On Assignment looks at the big picture.

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