Torbay-based ARC Marine is building the world’s first modular artificial reef at Vobster Quay, an inland water site and former quarry, near Radstock, Somerset in order to help save the UK’s endangered white-clawed freshwater crayfish. The company is seeking crowdfuding for the porject and asking the public to donate funds for the structure and to prove the viability of artificial reefs in ocean conservation.
Tom Birbeck co-founder of ARC Marine, argues that due to the threats posed by marine degradation, overfishing and coastal erosion, it is current, not future, generations who will experience climate change within their lifetimes. “Currently, only 4% of the world’s oceans are officially protected,” he says. “And considering that 93% of CO2 is stored in algae, undersea vegetation and coral, it is clear that preventing marine degradation is crucial to protecting the earth’s atmosphere”
Overfishing is both a UK and global problem, he maintains, adding that 53% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32% are over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion.
“It is predicted that at the current rate, all species currently fished for food will collapse by 2048. Ultimately, we are depleting a key food source - one that could be eradicated in our children’s lifetime, if not our own. We must do more to protect our oceans and our marine life that’s threatened by overfishing and other pressures,” continues Birbeck.
The marine-expert beieves that ARC Marine’s motto of ‘Man-made solutions to man-made problems’ is the right way to tackle the problem. The small company, which was given a starting loan by Virgin Start-Up, designs and builds artificial reefs that can block illegal fishing trawlers, improve water quality and biodiversity, protect coastlines and underwater habitats from erosion, boost the stocks of overfished species, and provide a protective marine habitat for endangered and declining species.
The UK’s native white-clawed crayfish is at risk of becoming extinct in the UK within 20-30 years due to both the introduction of an invasive US breed, and increasing habitat destruction. With the money raised from its current crowdfunding campaign, ARC Marine will work with Bristol Zoo to protect this crayfish population from extinction – using its first custom-built reef structure. Juvenile crayfish will be released into the completed reef in order to help boost their numbers and encourage further breeding.
To inspire people to take ownership of ocean conservation, ARC Marine is offering rewards to their crowdfunding backers, such as ‘adopt a crayfish’, exclusive dives in protected marine areas to show people what life exists below the ocean surface, and even the ownership of part of, or entire reef structures, complete with a plaque bearing the supporters name.