Artificial reefs are man-made structures that directly or indirectly provide habitat for marine life. In Spring 2017, we are partnering with a team of philanthropists, artists, and entrepreneurs to sink a WWII vessel, one of the few to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, to create an artificial reef in the British Virgin Islands that will rehabilitate and harbor marine life for decades.

This new reef will be used as a platform for launching numerous behavioral and physiological projects surrounding the potential rehabilitation of native fish populations, with a keen focus on sharks and groupers.

The sinking of a ship of this size provides us an unprecedented opportunity to monitor the potential restoration and subsequent occurrence and survival of marine species. The first project we will initiate in 2017 uses environmental DNA (eDNA) as a means for detecting these changes before and after the ship is sunk. eDNA samples are obtained directly from the seawater, without any obvious signs of the biological source material, and is efficient, non-invasive, and standardized. Samples will later be analyzed via DNA sequencing in order to detect the presence, absence, and relative abundance of sharks and groupers in the given area over time. eDNA has been touted as a means for revolutionizing the field of conservation biology, specifically for threatened species, which has traditionally been both challenging and expensive. We hope to add to the handful of studies which have successfully applied this method on sharks and their relatives in an effort to inform local conservation management.

Doubling as an attraction for divers and a coral out-planting platform, a colossal 80-ft kraken sculpture wraps around the stern of the ship. This unique art installation will help kickstart a thriving reef ecosystem through innovative and effective coral restoration techniques. The BVI Art Reef will also support the local economy through dive tourism and will engage and inspire the public through swim and marine stewardship programs, changing the way that locals and global citizens interact with the ocean in the British Virgin Islands.

Visit the project website for more information on this exciting endeavor!

Project partners and contributors include: Unite BVI, Maverick1000 Impact Fund, Secret Samurai Productions, Association of Reef Keepers, Sir Richard Branson and Dr. Stefano Mariani and Judith Bakker of the University of Salford’s Mariani Lab.

Other Projects:

Hammerhead Shark
Miami Urban Shark