Kilcunda design engineer Greg Page next to one of the artificial reefs he designed while it was under construction. Photo courtesy of Glenice Loughnan.
ARTIFICIAL reefs designed and built by an engineer from Kilcunda could end up making a significantly positive impact on the nation’s seafood industry.
Greg Page recently returned from Tasmania where he witnessed the two 17-tonne concrete structures he created being lowered into the sea for the first time.
The reefs, now sitting underwater at a marine reserve at Taroona, are being used for a detailed study by the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS).
The study will determine whether crayfish can breed and develop in and around the man-made reefs, with an overall goal of increasing seafood production.
Mr Page said watching a 250-tonne crane manoeuvre the structures from a barge and into the water on February 18 was an emotional experience, given how much work he has put into the project.
“It had taken three years to get to this stage and it was just fantastic to see,” he said.
“And when we got back to our apartment we got a real kick out of seeing that it was all over the news on Tasmania, on every television channel.”
To the average person, the reefs look like a bunch of concrete pallets stacked on top of each other.
In reality, they’re highly sophisticated structures designed to develop underwater habitats.
Mr Page said the design of his reefs was actually inspired by something fairly mundane – egg cartons.
“I wanted to make the things viable and not be too heavy, that’s why we went with a modular construction,” he said.
“The crayfish can come into the reefs from either side and the most important point is the amount of space available to them.
“The reefs have a footprint of 7sqm, but overall there’s about 110sqm of surface where marine life can grow.”
Following the university study, which is expected to take several years, Mr Page hopes to get investors and possibly even the government on board so more reefs can be constructed.
“The aim is to get the sea to produce more than we’re taking out of it,” he said.
“For example, if you could cover 50 per cent of Bass Strait with these reefs you’d have an area where marine life can grow that is seven times what’s there now.”
For now, Mr Page is looking forward to receiving news from the university about how the reefs are faring.
Professor Stewart Frusher from IMAS told ABC radio last month that artificial reefs have been around for a long time, but have mostly been used for recreational purposes in Australia.
“We’re really interested in seeing if we can start improving the production of certain areas of the sea, particularly in Tasmania where there’s a great reputation for quality seafood,” Prof Frusher said.
“We’re looking at trying to see if we can grow lobsters in particular in these reefs.”
Mr Frusher also told ABC Radio the goal of the current experimental site is to test whether larger, floating reefs could be viable in off-shore areas.