Artificial reefs to help marine life in Costa Rica recover

New concrete Reef Balls on the sandy sea bed
Image: Reef Ball Foundation

Artificial reefs to help build fish diversity and prevent erosion

Fourteen bell-type structures have been sited under the sea in Playa Blanca. Large and heavy, they’re made of marine cement which contains additives so that algae, small molluscs, and crustaceans can adhere more easily.

Costa Rica’s waters have suffered due to climate change, overfishing and human activity on land. There have been attempts at artificial reefs before but none like the ‘Reef Ball’ – a proven design. It’s hoped that the marine species that fix to these artificial reefs will serve as food for many others, helping to restore a healthy reef ecosystem.

A concrete Reef Ball being lowered into the water by divers
Image: Reef Ball Foundation

“The advantages of this type of reef are that they provide stability in the substrate due to its bell shape and weight, promote a high diversity of fish that makes it a tourist attraction,” explains Carlos Pérez, a biologist at the state National Institute of Learning who is part of the project.

Reef Balls on the sea bed
Image: Reef Ball Foundation

The aim is to place 200 such structures, creating a corridor that allows the passage of animals between the natural reefs that already exist in the area. The final stage is to place and grow coral cultures in-between, eventually restoring what once was.

A line of Reef Balls covered in marine life along the shore with the tide out
Image: Reef Ball Foundation

Costa Rica’s marine territory is 10 times larger than its landmass. The country is internationally recognised for its efforts to promote sustainable tourism and protect the environment.

It’s hoped that the artificial reef project will promote sustainable tourism such as snorkelling and diving, the project leaders want to show how visitors fragile a coral reef is and how what we do on land has a direct impact on life under the water.

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