For a few months, all the staff from Dive Timor Lorosae have been working hard on building an Artificial Reef at Tasi Tolu.
A what??... Wikipedia describes it as "An Artificial Reef is a human-made underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom, control erosion, block ship passage, or improve-surfing". The purpose of this one is to give "diving addicts" and the fantastic sea-life a new playground!!!
OK, but how does that work??... First, where an ocean current encounters a vertical structure, it can create a plankton-rich upwelling that provides a reliable feeding spot for small fish such as sardines and minnows, which draw in pelagic predators like blue-fin tuna and sharks. Next come creatures seeking protection from the ocean's lethal openness, hole and crevice dweller such as grouper, snapper, squirrel-fish, eels, and trigger fish. Opportunistic predators such as jacks and barracudas also appear, waiting for their prey to venture out. O
ver months and years the reef structure becomes encrusted with algae, tunicates, hard and soft corals and sponges. As Tasi Tolu has a sandy bottom, we provide shrimps, eels, octopus and small fish some places to hide! Creating habitat in the ocean is akin to creating an oasis in the desert. It's a fact that fish can't resist sunken ships, tanks, and subway cars.
So what is this Artificial Reef made of??... Car tires, some of them filled with concrete, the others are tied around with rope. Because of their shape, the tires are offering a nice and cozy overhead environment for small fish to hide, and the rubber offers a good substance for corals and sponges to grow.
So if we just throw our old refrigerator, or car parts into the ocean, can we call that "building an Artificial Reef" ??... NO,NO,NO !!! Even if there's a big chance that algae, sponges and corals will start to grow on it. It's important to make sure that everything is tied and well rested at the bottom so it won't get washed out during a storm or by a strong current, as this could result in breaking everything that was growing on it.
Are you allowed to do that??... YES! Thanks to Rui Pinto helping us get through all the paperwork and to sort out a proposal to the government. We gained approval to build this Artificial Reef at Tasi Tolu.
Does it work??... YES!! On our last dives there we found lot's of glass fish living around the tires, also pufferfish, catfish, pipefish, frogfish, octopus, crabs and shrimps. Also some trevally were starting to hang around. So that's very positive considering it's only been 7 months since we put the first tires down!!!
We will continue putting tires down there, hoping/expecting that in a year from now everything will be surrounded by fish!!!