Artificial reefs as a means of spreading diving pressure in a coral reef environment
Recreational diving damages coral reefs despite heightened environmental awareness. However, divers prefer preserved coral reefs and therefore reef degradation presents an economic loss. Artificial reefs were suggested among a range of tools to mitigate and reduce divers' negative impact on coral reefs.
Coral reefs in Eilat (northern tip of the Red Sea) are among the most densely dived reefs in the world, with an estimated number of dives of up to 350,000 dives a year. At least 7 artificial reefs were deployed in the coastal waters of Eilat, however the divers' visitation on these reefs is not tracked regularly.
We found that more than one third of the total dives take place on artificial reefs in Eilat. The divers prefer to vary their diving sites and possess a desire to diversify and expand their diving experience. Thus, the divers are also willing to dive a on artificial reefs, and this is true for both novice and experienced divers. This indicates that artificial reefs can draw divers from natural reefs, thus reducing diving pressure and allowing more sustainable levels of diving on natural coral reefs. This leads us to a conclusion that artificial reefs may be useful in modern reef conservation approaches.