Tracking the Progress of Artificial Reefs’ Construction in Brittany, Northwest France
Récifs Goëlo, a non-profit environmental association based in Côtes-d’Armor, one of Brittany’s coastal cities, has been dedicated to protecting the maritime ecosystem via artificial reefs in the northwest coast area of France since its establishment in 2016. Like French Mediterranean coast cities, Côtes-d’Armor chose to develop artificial reefs with the long-term objective of increasing biological production in impoverished marine areas and promoting the recovery of the natural environment degraded by human activities. “We had to be tenacious, but we are happy to reach the finish line,” said Michel Rickauer and Michel Brulard, respectively, President and Secretary of Récifs Goëlo.
The artificial reefs, which have been placed on three different sites on the coast of Bilfot, Côtes-d’Armor, are the concretization of several years of discussion and reflection. The idea behind this project was triggered by a group of local sailors who were preoccupied with the deteriorating state of maritime biodiversity in Côtes-d’Armor.
An artificial reef is a human-made and biomimetic submerged structure deliberately placed on the seabed to mimic some functions of a natural reef, such as protecting, regenerating, and concentrating populations of living marine resources. It provides shelter for various species; for instance, it serves as a crucial spawning and foraging habitat for many commercially and recreationally fish species. Furthermore, due to the threat of climate change, both global warming and ocean acidification are affecting marine life, leading to natural coral reefs being bleached and algae being expelled. To avoid the degradation of these marine ecosystems and at the same time encourage their reconstruction, initiatives related to the creation of artificial reefs have emerged globally. Nevertheless, a close and timely monitoring and evaluation of the ecological impacts of artificial reefs are essential to avoid any misplacement or becoming the habitat for invasive species such as the orange-cup coral.
The roadmap of artificial reefs was initially sketched by Récifs Goëlo to enhance the biodiversity in Bilfot by concentrating as many species as possible around the specifically produced concrete blocks and to see the evolution of the ecosystem and the impact on the surrounding areas. The move caught the attention of the National Museum of Natural History of Dinard (MNHN), which was working on a similar study. The museum then decided to join the environmental protection forces in order to gain more public attention and momentum.
This allowed Récifs Goëlo to raise 100,000 euros in financing to support the project. The Sea and Coastline Commission, which oversees the regional subsidies and the European fund for Maritime and Fishing Affairs (FEAMP), ruled a favorable verdict in May 2021. Three years after application, Récifs Goëlo received a subvention of 80% of the total amount (40% from the region and 40% from FEAMP), while the rest was provided by individual donators and companies that support the movement.
The artificial reefs are locally made and assembled in Caen, a commune in north-western France, by a French engineering college called Ecole Supérieure d’ingénieurs des Travaux de la Construction (ESITC), according to one of MNHN’s scientists. With a diameter of 1.6 meters and height of 1.30m, each artificial reef weighs 3.3 tonnes and has three circular parts, among which two contain shell waste. The artificial habitat will facilitate the proliferation and development of algae, which are key species for the area.
In the meantime, the museum and Récifs Goëlo would cooperate in training twenty divers: ten from Paimpol diving club (ASSSUB) and ten from Saint-quay-Portrieux (Narco Club), with a scientific approach to enable them with the capabilities to monitor the site for the following two years. MNHN is responsible for data collection and analysis as well as study reports. In return, they send their findings to Récifs Goëlo, which will publish the data to the public and media. Récifs Goëlo plans to involve the public with the reef experimentation for more awareness of maritime challenges. “The first thing is to learn about local biodiversity, and then we shall be able to see the evolution across time,” said Michel Rickauer.
However, time and patience are needed to observe concrete achievements. “In our region, for reefs like this to reach an equilibrium state, they will need five to seven years before we can see actual changes. That is why we spent one year for scientific monitoring before, which set the core and basis of the program. Later, the diving club will check the evolution and colonization of the reefs over time,” added Michel Rickauer. “We often say that reefs are the witnesses of climate change, and Récifs Goëlo will be able to certify that. We should also keep in mind that people tend to care more about environmental issues in places they know than big discussions at the global level.”
Armor Capital is proud to be a sponsor of Récifs Goëlo since its founding and is delighted to see the progress and achievement made so far. Armor Capital wishes Récifs Goëlo the best for the future.
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