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November 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Experienced Divers Arenít Excited by Artificial Reefs

from the November, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Coral reefs in warm waters are probably what lured you into getting scuba certified, but the damage done to them by climate change and pollution run-off is also damaging the dive industry. What's a way to relieve pressure on the reefs, and still lure people into diving? Artificial reefs are often considered the way to do both.

Three marine science researchers from the University of Hull in the U.K. wanted to see what divers, new and veteran, thought about diving on artificial reefs versus the real thing. Over two years, they asked 200 divers who visited Barbados (which has natural reefs, shipwrecks and reef balls around the island) about their dive preferences. Most expressed a clear preference for large shipwrecks or sunken boats as their top artificial reef types; no one liked diving reef balls or rubber tires. Broken down by dive experience, those who liked diving artificial reefs were novices; satisfaction declined with increased dive experience, as experienced divers overwhelmingly preferred natural reefs.

For been-around-the-block divers, artificial reefs are ho-hum (well, maybe not those in Yap Lagoon) but to attract new divers, they may just be the thing. A sunken ship starting to blossom with coral offers photo opps and just enough of a challenging dive to interest novices and keep them wanting more. The U.K. scientists suggest that dive shops put all their introductory courses and training dives on artificial reef sites, and give them more education about the environmental benefits of artificial reefs. Besides, the more interest in diving artificial reefs may mean more of a restful time-out for the natural ones.

It's a shame what reef diving has become.

A.E. Kirkbride-Smith, P.M.Wheeler and M.L. Johnson, "The Relationship between Diver Experience Levels and Perceptions of Attractiveness of Artificial Reefs - Examination of a Potential Management Tool," 2013, PLoS ONE 8(7): e68899. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0068899

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