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Steve O'Grady with one of his artifical reef 'modules'.
Photo: Chris Johnson

November 27, 2001
  Real Audio
  28k   64k

Log Transcript

Genevieve Johnson

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from Northern Australia.
After several weeks of boat maintenance, the Odyssey and her crew have left Darwin harbor. We are now headed south around the remote coast of Western Australia toward Shark Bay.

Before we departed, we spoke with Steve O'Grady, coordinator of an extremely exciting and innovative marine initiative, the Darwin Coralculture Project. Steve developed the idea of creating artificial coral reefs after becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated by the demise of Darwin's reef systems. Having grown up in the Northern Territory, he has observed Darwin Harbor slowly succumbing to increasing human pressures. Rapid development and land clearing has resulted in an escalating siltation problem. The removal of trees means the soil is easily blown or washed into the sea, clouding the water and smothering the sea floor. This is posing a severe threat to not only the foreshore, but also the fragile marine ecosystems of the harbor, its delicate coral reefs and fish communities.

The construction of artificial reefs is not a new idea. They have already proven themselves to be beneficial to marine communities by assisting in increasing both the biodiversity and biomass of the area - biodiversity being the number of different species and biomass, the numbers of individuals of a particular species.

The Darwin Coralculture project differs from many others because the materials used to make the reef components, called 'modules', are made up from garbage that would otherwise be placed in landfills. Darwin currently has no recycling facilities in place. Glass bottles, jars and cardboard tubing are cast in concrete, an inert material, to form purpose built habitats. Steve designs a number of different size modules to suit a variety of desired outcomes and different types of seafloor.

He has also found that depending on where and exactly what time of year the modules are placed in the water, will dictate the species it will attract. Placing a module in the same area a week earlier or later, may mean that the artificial reef will recruit an entirely different coral or sponge community that in turn attracts certain other marine species. This also assists scientists in learning more about the reproductive cycles of the coral reef systems.

Steve will use over 250,000 pieces of glass jars, bottles and cardboard tubing to construct 10,000 artificial reef 'modules'.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Although the base of the module is comparatively small, the surface area created when they are stacked or overlapped in layers, attracts an enormous range of marine organisms. Steve is planning to use more than 250,000 bottles, jars and cardboard tubes to create 10,000 concrete modules. He is working in conjunction with the traditional landowners of the area, the Larrakia people, as well as the Darwin Harbormaster. He has been provided with almost 200,000 square meters of seabed on which to conduct the project on a long-term basis.

Steve believes it is our common duty to better manage the oceans and it's resources for the sake of future generations. As a keen fisherman, he feels a responsibility to put back into a system from which he has always taken.

The Coralculture Project is dedicated to educating the public by highlighting the growing siltation problem that reef systems face, and ultimately restoring the structures of the seafloor. The project will also benefit the community in other ways, such as creating a unique diving attraction and a nursery for commercial fish species.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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