Reef Balls

Coral reefs all around the world are dying, but concrete balls can promote marine organisms by mimicking natural reefs.

Coral reefs all around the world are dying. Roughly a quarter of coral reefs are already considered damaged beyond repair, and if the present rate of devastation continues, an estimated 70 per cent of the world’s reefs will be destroyed by the year 2050. Coral mining, pollution, fishing, disease and careless tourism all contribute to the destruction.

Twenty-five per cent of all marine fish species inhabit reefs, and around 500 million people rely on them for their food and livelihoods. Healthy reefs also help to absorb waves’ energy and reduce their impact on the shore. In areas where they are degraded, coastlines are more vulnerable to the ocean.

The natural reefs alone cannot rebuild themselves fast enough to compensate for this destruction.

Having witnessed the rapid devastation of a Cayman Island coral reef, Todd Barber decided to take action. He gave up a six-figure salary as a marketing consultant and made the decision to dedicate his life to the restoration of the world’s ocean reef ecosystems. He set up The Reef Ball Foundation, an NGO which now builds, restores and protects reefs in 59 countries.

Reef Balls are simple but effective structures designed to promote marine organisms by mimicking natural reef structure. They are made by pouring concrete into a fiberglass mold containing a central buoy, surrounded by inflatable balls which create holes. The concrete is a super high strength, with a pH similar to natural sea water. Their rough surface texture promotes settling by marine organisms such as corals, algae, coralline algae, and sponges. Reef Balls have an expected life of 500 or more years. Over 550,000 have so far been deployed in more than 4,000 projects.

Sinead O’Shea meets Todd Barber and his team at the Reef Ball manufacturing plant in Sarasota, Florida, and is taught to make a reef ball before deploying it along the Florida coastline.


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