A Virgin Start-Up-backed company, ARC Marine, is creating an artificial reef at premier U.K. dive site Vobster Quay in 2017.

A Virgin Start-Up-backed company, ARC Marine, is creating an artificial reef at premier U.K. dive site Vobster Quay in 2017. They aim to protect the globally endangered white-clawed crayfish, which faces extinction in the next 20 to 30 years.

Two commercial divers, Tom Birbeck and James Doddrell, founded ARC Marine in 2015 to design and create artificial reefs as habitat for vulnerable species. The artificial reef at Vobster Quay is a collaboration with Bristol Zoo to protect the white-clawed crayfish from extinction. Designers constructed the reef modules, which could last 500 years, of marine-friendly concrete.

Protecting the white-clawed crayfish

The white-clawed crayfish faces extinction due to habitat destruction and an aggressive, invasive U.S. breed, the signal crayfish. White-clawed crayfish are also sensitive to pollutants such as insecticides, which run off sprayed land and into watercourses during rainfalls.

Dr. Nicholas Higgs, the deputy director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth, tests structures built for the marine environment. He says that the ARC modules concentrate fish and nutrients around the reef, and so provide a whole ecosystem.

“The ARC modules provide increased habitat complexity,” says Higgs. “By providing living space, you should be able to increase the amount of crayfish that can live in habits like quarries and man-made bodies of water.”

Crowdfunding to encourage community involvement

Overfishing is rampant worldwide, with 53 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited. A further 32 percent are overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). At the current rate of exploitation, scientists predict that all species fished for food will collapse by 2048. Birbeck hopes that ARC Marine can be a leader in the U.K. when it comes to reversing this trend, both via its conservation efforts and through crowdfunding to encourage community involvement. Their modules prevent fishing, by interrupting trawling and towing efforts, and boost stocks of fishery species. They act as robust anchor points for cages and buoys and are also used in coastal areas to mitigate erosion.

“Oceans and waterways belong to everyone,” he says. “So, the responsibility of marine conservation, and the challenge of reversing ocean degradation, is one that we all must collectively tackle.”

We’re giving the crowd the power to rebuild and protect our delicate marine environment for generations to come with a 500-plus year project lifespan. There is no pledge like it in the history of crowdfunding.”

Depending on the size of their donation, contributors can have their own reef module built or become an ARC Marine Ambassador. They can also gain free entry to Vobster Quay to dive the lake and learn about crayfish conservation.

The campaign will also fund Birbeck and Doddrell’s research into creating a substantial artificial reef in Torquay, Devon.

Featured Image by David Gerke

Cover Photo by ARC Marine

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