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From cruise ship to artificial reef: cruise liners forming dive spots

From cruise ship to artificial reef: cruise liners forming dive spots
Frances Marcellin 7 October 2019

Earlier this year, the 157ft El Dorado was sunk to form an artificial reef for divers and fisherman off the coast of Panama City Beach, Florida, US. It’s one of several cruise ships to start a new life at the bottom of the ocean in this way. With cruise liners forming dive spots around the world, Frances Marcellin finds out more.

The first known artificial reefs were built in the Mediterranean in the 1500s and then by the Japanese in the 1600s who created them out of rocks to attract more fish.

Today the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that there are around 300 artificial reefs in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea alone. In the US, Florida boasts the most artificial reefs with 2,700 scattered across 34 coastal counties.

An expansive range of materials and structures are used to create artificial reefs. They include: wood, shell, rock, concrete, steel, fibreglass, tyres, aircraft, vehicles and vessels.

These manmade structures work because when durable materials are placed in the marine environment they become covered by organisms, such as barnacles, corals, sponges and marine worms, and act like a coral reef. These become the foundation of the reef community. Crabs, shrimp, sea urchins follow, and then the fish who stay for the plentiful food and the shelter – all of which are critical for fishing and diving success.