Divers are basically tourists who love coral reefs and spend a lot of time and effort to see them. Unfortunately, divers also damage corals, often unintentionally, by disturbing and re-sanding, touching them, hitting them with their equipment, and scaring away fish. Artificial reefs have been proposed as a means of diverting diving pressure from natural reefs to alternative sites, thereby protecting both the divers and the coral reef.

This problem was noticed years ago in Eilat, and as a result, an artificial reef was established there, in collaboration with the Nature and Parks Authority, Ben-Gurion University’s Marine Biology and Biotechnology Program Professor Nadav Shasher, and the OBS Company. A nature reserve bordering natural coral reefs. This artificial reef was established in 2006 and in 2007 it was planted with corals grown in a special coral nursery. Since then, it has attracted many species of reef fish and other invertebrates that are difficult to find on natural reefs.

A new long-term study has just been published. the sea, Tracked diver movements before and after reef placement. Before its installation, introductory diving instructors had to take their trainees to the reserve to enjoy diving. Later, however, it became a magnet for divers, especially guided divers, and introductory divers. Furthermore, introductory dives to the natural coral reefs in the reserve have almost completely stopped.

Moreover, the rock remains as attractive 15 years after its installation, thus deciding the question of whether an artificial site would be attractive when it is no longer a novelty.

Additional researchers include Asa Oren, Reem Neri, Omar Wiseman of the Marine Biology and Biotechnology Program at BGU and the Inter-University Institute for Marine Science, and Natalie Chernihovsky and Jenny Teniakov of the Marine Biology Program.

This research was supported by the USAID-MERC (Middle East Regional Cooperation) program.