I like to think that everyone involved in the aquarium hobby and industry cares about preserving our planet. A large part of our responsibility involves what we do with marine reefs in the wild. A number of companies are involved with “farming” corals and clams in the places where they come from, and at least one company is pulling larval fish from the plankton rafts and raising them from that stage on.
All of these efforts are to be applauded, as they not only contribute to our not taking things from the reef in their adult (and therefore most reproductively successful) stage, but they also provide a source of steady income to the local residents. The thrust of the efforts is that if indigenous peoples derive a natural and recurring revenue from the reefs, they will protect the reefs as their source of life.
Other efforts involve creating artificial reefs, which have had varying levels of success. When first started, many of the new artificial reefs were basically places to dispose of modern society’s unwanted refuse that had no other place to go. The worst example of this is, perhaps, the tires that were sunk to the sea bottom with heavy chains up and down the east coast of the United States, from North Carolina to Florida. Turns out the tires were not, in fact, good places for marine animals to colonize, and there are reports that in some places they have broken loose and are destroying the very animal life they were intended to promote.
Some of the more successful efforts at establishing artificial reefs have occurred in the Pacific Triangle, where so many of our fish and corals come from. Instead of tires or other garbage, steel cages that have a very small trickle of electric charge running through them are used. The cages encourage limestone deposits, which in turn entices coral fragments to begin colonization. In a relatively short period of time these become vibrant coral and fish communities. In some places where ships have been sunk (either purposefully or in war), there are very active marine communities, and these have also proven to be excellent diving sites.
Artificial reefs, if done properly, can contribute much to the preservation and reconstruction of marine communities. When they are used as a “green” excuse to dump unwanted trash into the ocean, I really hope folks will think again.