The lawsuit by Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM) against dredging that would damage coral reefs in front of the Panama Canal (based on GCRA reef surveys with the Galeta Marine Laboratory) was admitted by Panamanian Courts on 8 January 2018. This means that the construction works in the port must be suspended while the Court provides a final merits decision. Because we filed an amparo de garantías action, we argued infringement of the constitutional rights to a healthy environment, sustainable development and health. Because of these arguments, once this type of lawsuit is admitted it immediately suspends the legal effects of the resolution that approved the project’s EIA until a final decision is made by the Supreme Court.
Please read more on the news that was published on January 29 in Panama’s leading newspaper, La Prensa:
Increasing stress from global warming, sea level rise, acidification, sedimentation, pollution, and unsustainable practices have degraded the most critical coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, oyster reefs, and salt marshes. Conventional restoration methods work only under perfect conditions but fail nearly completely when the water becomes too hot or water quality deteriorates. New methods are needed to greatly increase settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to environmental stress of keystone marine organisms in order to maintain critical coastal ecosystem functions including shore protection, fisheries, and biodiversity. Electrolysis methods have been applied to marine ecosystem restoration since 1976, with spectacular results (Figures 1(a)-(c)). This paper provides the first overall review of the data. Low-voltage direct current trickle charges are found to increase the settlement of corals 25.86 times higher than uncharged control sites, to increase the mean growth rates of reef-building corals, soft corals, oysters, and salt marsh grass— an average of 3.17 times faster than controls (ranging from 2 to 10 times depending on species and conditions), and to increase the survival of electrically charged marine organisms—an average of 3.47 times greater than controls, with the biggest increases under the most severe environmental stresses. These results are caused by the fundamental biophysical stimulation of natural biochemical energy production pathways, used by all organisms, provided by electrical stimulation under the right conditions. This paper reviews for the first time all published results from properly designed, installed, and maintained projects, and contrasts them with those that do not meet these criteria.
How to cite this paper: Goreau, T.J. (2014) Electrical Stimulation Greatly Increases Settlement, Growth, Survival, and Stress Resistance of Marine Organisms. Natural Resources, 5, 527-537. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/nr.2014.510048
Low-voltage direct current trickle charges using Biorock electrolytic technology   grow limestone structures
of any size or shape in the sea and produce the only self-repairing marine construction material that gets
stronger with age , and grows breakwaters capable of rapidly growing back severely eroded beaches . But
in addition to physical benefits the process also has profound stimulatory effects on all forms of marine life.
Biorock structures have been repeatedly shown to greatly increase the settlement, healing, growth, survival, and
resistance to stresses such as extreme high temperatures, sedimentation, and eutrophication in stony corals -, soft corals , oysters -, sea grasses , and intertidal salt marsh grasses . Many other organisms, including clams, tunicates, sponges, and fishes have also been observed to greatly increase their populations in electrical fields, but few measurements have been made on them to date. This review summarizes the available data on the effects of low-voltage direct current electrical stimulation on growth rates, survival, stress resistance, and physiology, which suggest the mechanism is a completely general one that benefits all organisms . Results from projects that were properly designed, installed, and maintained are included in the main part of this paper. Because understanding the causes of negative results play an important role in the scientific method, projects that do not meet those criteria of proper design, installation, and maintenance are discussed separately.
2. The Impact of Electrical Stimulation on Marine Organisms
2.1. Published Results from Properly Designed, Installed, and Maintained Projects
The very first Biorock project, built at Grand Isle, Louisiana in 1976, was completely covered by multiple layers of spontaneously settling oysters that grew to adult size in about 3 months . Recent Biorock projects in New York City show dense spontaneous settlement of oysters on rocks near Biorock structures. Nevertheless, no controlled studies of oyster settlement have yet been conducted. By the late 1980s it was found that electrically stimulated corals grew 3 – 5 times record rates for their species, even under conditions of severe stress. Since then hundreds of projects have been built all across the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia, with most projects being in Indonesia, the global center of marine biodiversity. While slowly growing Biorock structures have been densely covered with hundreds of spontaneously recruiting corals  , only two studies have documented coral settlement on them  . When these are compared to spontaneous recruitment of corals in natural habitats in the same units (recruits per square meter per month) the rates of settlement on electrically charged Biorock are found to be 1 to 4 orders of magnitude greater (Figure 2(a)), with a mean of 25.86 times higher than those reported from field settling experiments.
Growth rates of reef building hard corals -, gorgonian soft coral , oysters -, and salt marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora)  have been quantitatively compared on Biorock with identical clones off Biorock
in the same habitat. The results show that the electrically stimulated organisms grow typically 2 to 10 times faster (Figure 2(b)), with a mean of 3.17 times greater than controls. In addition hard and soft corals that have
been collected naturally broken and badly damaged are observed to heal completely, release little or no mucus, and regain bright color and polyp extension within a day, while controls remain pale and continue to look injured
and release mucus for two weeks . Corals in electrical fields are observed to bud and branch more densely  . This is reminiscent of the well known role of DC electrical fields in healing ruptured cellular membranes and cuts in the skin of organisms: if the polarity is correct the cut rapidly heals and closes, while if it is reversed the cut opens up . Survival of hard corals -, soft corals , oysters -, and salt marsh grass  in electrical fields compared to un-electrified controls also show many times higher survival (Figure 2(c)), with a mean of 3.47 times higher than controls. This is especially the case in extreme stress conditions from excessively high temperatures, sedimentation, or eutrophication, when almost all the controls die, but most of the electrically charged organisms survive. For example in the severe 1998 Maldives bleaching event Biorock reefs had 16 to 50 times higher coral survival than surrounding reefs, and every single control coral transplanted onto cement structures died . In the 2010 Thailand bleaching events corals bleached less (in some cases not at all), recovered faster, and had much higher survival than the same species of corals on surrounding reefs . Similar results have been seen with oysters , salt marsh grass , and seagrass . Control oysters in New York City nearly all died over a severe winter, and the shells of the survivors shrank in size because they were etched and dissolved from acidity caused by increased CO2 solubility in cold water. In contrast Biorock oysters continued to
grow throughout the normally dormant period, and their shells were shiny with no signs of dissolution from acidity . This is in part because the Biorock electrolytic process generates net alkalinity, and so counteracts acidification . A comparison of 6 genera of corals grown on Biorock with genetically identical clones in the same habitat  showed that electrically stimulated corals had higher densities of the symbiotic alga Symbiodinium sp. (Figure 3(a)), even higher Symbiodinium cell division rates as measured by mitotic indices (Figure 3(b)), but had generally lower chlorophyll per Symbiodinium cell (Figure 3(c)). This is analogous to the lowered chlorophyll content of corals exposed to high light, which is interpreted as a mechanism to prevent excessive photosynthetic production and symbiotic alga growth -. The greatly increased growth rate of corals with electrical stimulation appears to occur despite less dependence on the symbiotic algae, and therefore is a direct effect of the electrical field itself.
All of these phenomena indicate that electrical fields in the right range greatly stimulate the health of marine organisms. These effects are not residual, they occur only when the electrical field is on (Figure 4(a)). These results are no surprise, since all forms of life from bacteria on up maintain a roughly tenth of a volt potential difference between the outside of the cell and the inside, and use electron and proton flow along this voltage gradient to make ATP and NADP, the fundamental energy and reducing currencies of all life. ATP production and protein synthesis are both directly stimulated by DC electrical currents over a very broad range spanning orders of magnitude , increasing with current to a maximum and then decreasing at excessive levels (Figure 4(b)). 2.2. Results from Improperly Designed Experiments This section discusses published results from projects that do not meet the criteria of proper training, materials, design, installation, and maintenance according to the inventors of the electrical stimulation method. All have failed to get the results achieved by those with proper training and materials, for several different reasons. As
there are several different causes for their failure to achieve prime results, these inappropriate projects are reviewed below by major categories of the flaws in their design or execution.
2.2.1. Mistake -1: Current Reversed
In these projects the power leads are connected backwards. Instead of the cathode being protected from corrosion, it rusts very rapidly instead, and the anode, instead of being clean, is instead heavily overgrown by rapid growth of soft minerals. Sometimes it takes months before they realize their mistake, and often the error was only recognized much too late when the author visited and pointed it out. These mistakes can easily be prevented by promptly sending photos for advice. In some cases reports based on this mistake have been published claiming that the method is a total failure. A report by the Texas A&M University Galveston Coastal Geology Laboratory was paid for the State of Texas General Lands Office (GLO), in order to see if electrical methods could protect steel with mineral coatings, as had been shown by Hilbertz in the 1970s. Texas A&M found instead that the charged structures rusted even faster than the controls! They never realized their mistake, nor apparently did Texas GLO.
2.2.2. Mistake 0: No Current
This can result from power supply failure or from cable breakage.
In some of these cases the project was properly designed and installed, but those running the project failed to realize that it was not under power and send photos to the author for confirmation and advice on how to fix it. Some of these continued making measurements for up to year not realizing that the project was not under power, and the mistake was only realized afterwards when they finally sent the first photographs to the author, who immediately recognized they were not receiving electrical current. That is why even trained groups are advised to send frequent photos for advice.
Other cases were by untrained imitators using incorrect design and materials. These failures were largely caused by power supplies burning out, electrical cables breaking, or bad contacts. Most such failures were caused by extreme storm events, such as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones, and were not properly diagnosed or repaired. In other cases they resulted from deliberate destruction by people running boats over the cables, breaking cables by dragging anchors over cables, by people dumping anchors on top of projects accidentally or deliberately, or saboteurs who cut cables for bizarre reasons of their own, usually involving a personal grudge against a local partner rather than the project itself. Unfortunately several projects that received no current resulted in published theses and papers.
One example is a thesis project by Zaidy Khan at the University of the South Pacific, which found no difference in growth rates of corals on structures which were thought to be under power but which in fact were not, and control structures known to receive no power.
The same error occurred in a thesis project by Andrew Taylor of James Cook University, supervised by Bette Willis, who sought to compare coral growth on structures with and without power. Taylor did not build any electrified structures, he simply used one of our field sites without permission, which his thesis advisor did not seem to realize was fundamentally unethical. The structure he thought was under power was in fact not, due to a burned out power supply that had not been repaired or replaced. In addition Taylor’s control corals died from disease, but a poster was presented anyway at the International Coral Reef Symposium claiming that Biorock corals did not grow faster than controls.
Another experiment done by Bogor University at Pramuka Island in the Seribu Islands north of Jakarta was victim of deliberate turning off of the power. The local power supply was in a commercial restaurant that was paid for supplying power, but which in fact turned the power off except during short visits by students making measurements. The interpretation of several Master’s theses was compromised by failure to realize what had happened until later.
In several cases groups in places like Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, Japan, the United States, and other places, who falsely claim to be trained in Biorock methods have been making unauthorized projects that have been complete failures. Their pitiful results are an obvious failure to all visitors, and an embarrassment because the imitators then say the method doesn’t work, not that they aren’t trained to do it properly.
2.2.3. Mistake 1: Current Too Low
This mistake results from powering too large an area with too small a power source, or failure to recognize that cables are broken or inadequate. One example comes from Terlouw , who reports measurements made on a project in Ko Tao, Thailand that was partially installed, but whose installation was never completed to standards. As a result of inadequate and broken cables the project received only a little power in the first year. In the second year new cables were installed and a failed power supply replaced so the project received power, but in the third year the cables broke and or the power supply failed, so only a small trickle or no power reached the project. These conditions were identified by the author from photographs sent from the project, but were not recognized by Terlouw, who reported that corals on Biorock grew faster than control corals by a factor of 1.54 in Year One, by a factor of 5.04 in Year Two, and by a factor of 1.33 in Year Three. Terlouw, not recognizing the cause of the variations, suggested that benefits are mixed, but our interpretation is that the higher results in Year 2 are due to that being the only year with adequate power, while Year 1 and Year 3 were underpowered, resulting in lower rates.
A similar mistake was made with oysters by Piazza et al. . In this particular case the oysters thought to be getting electrical current were in fact getting almost none at all, because flawed experimental design concentrated the current onto fresh pieces of bare steel. Piazza et al. found that the oysters that they incorrectly thought to be under power grew only 1.15 times faster than controls.
2.2.4. Mistake 2: Current Too High
Over-charging has been known to cause negative effects from the very start, but most groups that set up experiments without proper training or materials use high power to get quick results. As shown in Figure 4(b) of this paper, excessive current causes negligible benefits, and if too high, causes negative effects, killing corals. Unfortunately most of those who get negative results due to overcharging do not realize their error, and many of them have published their results anyway. This mistake is the cause of the very poor results reported by Schuhmacher, Schillak, Van Treeck, Sabater, Yap, Eggeling, and their colleagues -. Since these authors did not realize their mistakes and published negative or minor results, it has been widely claimed that the method does not work, but in fact their poor results were entirely due to lack of proper training, experimental design, materials, etc. Such mistakes are even worse when done in a closed system tank. As a result of their overcharging the corals had only very small increases in growth rates, or they bleached and failed to grow entirely, or died.
2.2.5. Mistake 3: Ethical
Borrell et al.   reported that one coral species grows a bit faster with electricity but that another species had its growth reduced and inhibited by the electrical field  . In fact, the alleged reduction of one species’ growth was for a completely different reason: terminal phase male parrotfish established their breeding territories on the Biorock project, and marked them by biting off all the growing tips of that one species only, while ignoring them in the control site. The author of this paper personally set that project up, and documented the cause, but this was completely and knowingly ignored by the authors of the report, causing deceptive and false conclusions.
These results all point in the same direction: low-voltage trickle charges can greatly enhance the health of marine organisms. Voltage gradients in the right range appear to create the ideal biophysical conditions for the creation of biochemical energy, stimulating healing, growth, survival, and resistance to stress. The external field maintains the cell membrane gradient and greatly reduces the need for cells to spend a large part of their energy pumping electrons, protons, and ions to maintain the gradient, freeing this energy for metabolism, growth, and resisting environmental stress.
Unfortunately many people copying the Biorock method think they can do so without training. The results of improperly designed, installed, and maintained projects set up by people without training using improper materials always fail to replicate the results of projects by trained people using approved methods and materials, for several obvious reasons. These people inevitably blame the technology itself and not their lack of training. Almost every data point in these graphs represents populations of different species grown in the field under different electrical conditions, most of which are likely to be suboptimal. For example oyster growth rates next to a former toxic waste dump in New York City increased with current, up to 10 fold (NB, length increase only, the volume increase is a thousand fold), even though they were getting power less than a quarter of the time, and probably would have grown even faster with more power . Much more work is needed to find out the optimal conditions, which are likely to be subtly different for each species. It has not escaped our attention that because membrane electro-chemical gradient-driven energy production is universal among all cellular life, going back to the last common ancestor, the method will apply to all organisms, although the effects and best conditions will depend on the electrical conductivity of their medium.
Maintaining ecosystem services in the face of accelerating global climate change will require methods that increase growth, survival, and resistance to escalating stress. These results indicate that the Biorock process is unique in accelerating settlement, growth, healing, branching, survival, and resistance to environmental stress. This allows marine organisms to be kept alive under conditions that would otherwise kill them, and enables entire complex ecosystems to be restored in a short period of time in places where there is no natural recovery (Figure 1). The Biorock electrolysis method, by stimulating the natural energy production mechanism, is the only ecological restoration method known that can maintain and restore marine ecosystems under conditions of accelerating global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, sedimentation, and excessive nutrient inputs, especially under severe stress where all other methods fail. It is urgent that the method should be optimized and applied on a large scale as soon as possible, especially in coral reefs, the ecosystem most threatened by global warming  , and in extending oyster reefs and salt marshes seaward to reduce coastal damage caused by global sea level rise.
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British wave energy start-up Zyba has teamed up with Biorock, which builds artificial coral reefs with the hope of simultaneously providing energy and coastal protection for islands. It has developed a new curved technology, the CCell, with a lightweight design that allows it to capture a greater amount of the ocean’s awesome power than its competitors.
Working with Biorock – both the company and technology name – Zyba hopes to provide island communities with a new source of clean and reliable energy. The power will also be used in the construction of coral reefs, which provide important coastal protection and bustling ecosystems for marine wildlife.
Hidden among the reefs, the CCells will take advantage of the total theoretical global wave energy potential of 32 petawatt (PW) hours per year. So far, no large-scale application for wave technologies has been successful and so Zyba is championing a smaller-scale approach. The power it creates is designed to enter the grid network and work alongside other renewable sources.
Symmetric vs asymmetric wave energy devices
The concept of the CCell arose from the company’s founder, William Bateman, asking a simple question: “The energy in the ocean leads from the open ocean towards the shore, so it’s an asymmetric problem,” he says. “All I fundamentally did was question why are people making symmetric devices.
“I never meant to start a business in wave energy but I was looking at their devices and they were all symmetric, so they were either round or they were flat.”
Bateman went to University College London in 2012, where he asked friends to test a curved panel against a flat one. The results came back vastly in favour of a curved panel, which moved 40% more than the flat one, based on wave motion. As testing continued, researchers showed that as the wave hits the face of the panel, the curved shape forces the energy towards the central core where it could be collected. Additionally, the shoreward face of the panel is subject to less stress than a flat panel because the convex shape cuts through the water smoothly, reducing the risk of the panel becoming damaged in rough weather.
From this point, the project snowballed into Zyba and the patented CCell technology. With prototypes and testing complete, the final CCell was made comprising a glass and carbon fibre composite, making it light, flexible and, importantly, corrosion-resistant to increase its lifespan in seawater. There is only one moving part in each of the modular units and it has the highest known power-to-weight ratio of any wave device.
A symbiotic relationship protecting reefs
Zyba aims to tackle energy problems that large sources, such as offshore wind, cannot. “We have really moved away from using wave power for grid-scale electricity generation in the short term, but instead really trying to carve out a niche where wave energy is unique and actually has a significant intrinsic benefit,” says Bateman. “That’s really come about in the last six to nine months. Our focus at the moment has really been on coastal protection using a combination of the CCells and our partner’s technology, which is called Biorock.”
Biorock has been developed over the last 30 years by Professor Wolf Hilbertz, who died in 2007, and Dr Tom Goreau, as a way to grow artificial concrete. Biorock uses electrolysis to create a limescale-like substance by attracting the minerals in seawater. The rock this creates grows incredibly fast, as much as several centimetres a year, and is incredibly strong.
“The biggest single challenge for Biorock has always been its thirst for power at sea, conversely, we’re coming into a market where we are generating this power at sea and we need to get it to shore,” explains Bateman.
The companies have thus formed a partnership that allows them to build artificial concrete that protects coastal areas, while bringing in revenue from renewable energy production. “By collaborating with Biorock we are developing a symbiotic relationship in which we provide them with the power that they need,” says Bateman. “Equally, we can position our device where Biorock is growing a reef, so they are providing protection and fundamentally mass which helps to keep our unit in position.”
Clean and cool energy, despite challenges
As a start-up, Zyba’s main challenge throughout development has been financing. “For a physical product, where you have to do lab testing or actually offshore deployments, the costs are relatively high,” says Bateman. “When you’re doing the research and testing, you don’t really have time to be applying for funding, and then you get to the end of one round of funding and you have to stop and think, where am I getting the next bit? Obviously, you try to overlap them but often the funding doesn’t overlap so you do spend a lot of time and concern on how to grow in a sensible way.”
However, increased recognition for the technology over the past year has led to greater opportunities. Zyba was chosen to be part of the Clean+Cool Mission, organised by Long Run Works and sponsored by Innovate UK and the Department of International Trade it connects start-ups with investors in Silicon Valley, California, and allows entrepreneurs to share and develop ideas.
“Earlier this year we were selected alongside a group of 19 other companies to represent the greatest and the best of UK clean tech,” says Bateman. “It’s really interesting talking to the people over there because their attitude to start-ups is very, very different to what we see in the UK. It’s almost like everyone has a start-up, everyone’s got something going on in their garage and it’s all very chaotic.”
The trip encouraged the Zyba team to work on making changes in big increments by targeting smaller savings, leading to a focus on the nitty-gritty of the supply chain. “We originally thought that we’d manufacture the devices in the UK because the tooling behind the construction of our composite paddles was one of the major costs,” says Bateman. “Over the last six months we’ve actually been able to drive down the cost of our tooling for our relatively small device, from about £50,000 down to almost £2,500. The cheaper tooling is actually a better product – it’s a better module than the one we’d been quoted £50,000 for.”
Following Clean+Cool, Zyba decided to ship flat pack paddle moulds instead of the paddles themselves. It will provide local craftsmen, particularly yacht builders who are used to the required composite materials and methods, with the moulds and tools to make the CCell close to where it will be installed. This will help reduce the cost of the CCell, as well as supporting local communities.
Connecting wave energy to the grid
Zyba hopes the first CCell will be running offshore next year. “We are working really hard to get a row of devices installed just off the coast of Mexico,” says Bateman. “Hopefully by January, at the latest March, next year, it’ll be installed. What’s constraining us at the moment is overcoming some of the regulatory hurdles.”
CCells will be positioned along the coast of the island of Cozumel, starting with just one module. “The vision is that you would install one just to start with, just to make sure that you understand the local conditions and everything is correct, and then in the following years install in a line of devices along the shore,” explains Bateman.
Energy will then be transported underground to the island, where it will enter the grid system and work alongside other power sources. “Give or take 10%-20% of the energy that we generate will be needed to grow the Biorock, and the rest of that power we can then provide as an export to shore,” says Bateman.
The CCell could help provide clean, renewable power for small island communities, while protecting the coast and the underwater environment from the ocean. It’s a technology that kills two birds with one stone, and showcases a lot of potential on a small scale.
BIOROCK ELECTRIC CORAL REEF RESTORATION COMES BACK HOME TO JAMAICA AFTER 25 YEARS
The first new Biorock electrical coral reef restoration project in Jamaica for 25 years has been started.
The small project is located in front of Westender Inn, at the extreme end of the West End of Negril, facebook.com/westenderinn
Electric reef restoration technology was invented and developed 30 years ago in Jamaica by late architecture Professor Wolf Hilbertz and Dr. Tom Goreau at the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (T. J. Goreau & W. Hilbertz, 2012, Reef restoration using seawater electrolysis in Jamaica, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press).
It is a few kilometers from the last Jamaican Biorock project, in Little Bay. Local fishermen were amazed to see corals grow right over the solar panel powered Biorock reef.
Made from layers of conch shells, it was crowded with young lobsters and fish until the Biorock reef, the solar panel, and nearby houses were demolished by Hurricane Ivan on September 11-12 2004. Local fishers are eager to see more Biorock!
The area offshore from the project site had been a vast forest of elkhorn coral that reached the surface, which was demolished by Hurricanes Allen, Gilbert, and Ivan. There has been little or no sign of reef recovery along most of the coastline, except in a few small areas.
We have found elkhorn colonies nearby and are rescuing loose naturally broken coral fragments that are still alive but that would otherwise die, and propagating them on the Biorock reef.
There are so few remaining living naturally broken fragments now left in the area that we are starting with only around a dozen small naturally broken coral fragments, mostly Acropora palmata, Porites astreoides, Porites divaricata, Diploria clivosa, Diploria strigosa, and Agaricia agaricites. Two of these were found completely bleached where they had been washed into crevices.
But there are young corals of half a dozen species all over on the rocks underneath the Biorock structure, and these will grow up through the Biorock reef, while new corals will settle all around.
The result is that we will grow the reef upwards by about a meter, protecting the rocky shore from erosion, and eventually allowing sand to build up. The entire seafloor of the area is now eroding severely because it is densely covered with rock-boring sea urchins, constantly chewing holes right into the dead reef rock. We will turn a collapsing reef back into an actively growing one.
The return of life-saving Biorock electric reef restoration technology back home to the island of its birth can restore the lost corals, fishes, and vanishing beaches all around Jamaica if done on a large scale. Twenty-five years of involuntary exile from Jamaica were forced on us by lack of funding and support from both Jamaican and foreign institutions.
Since then we did around 400 Biorock projects in around 40 countries all around the world, keeping reefs alive when they would die from high temperatures and pollution, growing corals back rapidly in places where there has been no recovery, and even growing back severely eroded beaches in just months.
The Global Coral Reef Alliance thanks the Westender Inn, Negril for their support for the project, in particular Dan Brewer, Keith Duhaney, Steve Drotos, the entire Westender staff, Booty, Beenie, Ken, Ceylon Clayton, and the people of Orange Hill and Little Bay, Westmoreland, Jamaica.
Let’s make Jamaica’s coral reefs, beaches, and fisheries beautiful again: bring Biorock back home where it was born!
Staghorn coral growing nearly a centimeter a week on a Biorock reef in Negril, Jamaica. Photograph by Wolf Hilbertz, 1992
Cost-effective solutions to major marine resource management problems including construction and repair, shore protection, ecological restoration, sustainable aquaculture, and climate change adaptation
Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
BIOROCK® technology is a innovative technology that uses safe, very low-voltage, electrical “trickle” charges to grow and repair marine structures at any scale and to rapidly grow or restore vibrant marine ecosystems.
The BIOROCK® process was originally invented by the late architect Professor Wolf Hilbertz to produce natural building materials in the sea (also known as Seacrete, Seament, and Mineral Accretion), and developed by him and biogeochemist Dr. Tom Goreau to restore degraded marine ecosystems, fisheries, and beaches.
BIOROCK® provides greater benefits, faster results, and lower costs than any other alternative to solve a wide range of crucial marine management problems:
The Economist – Turning oil rigs into reefs saves money and marine life. Yet many greens oppose it. Jun 14th 2014 | SANTA BARBARA WHEN an offshore well stops producing oil, what should be done with the rig? One option is to haul it ashore, break it up and recycle it. This is expensive. For a big, deep-water oil or gas platform, it can cost $200m. Just hiring a derrick barge massive enough to do the job can cost $700,000 a day. But there is an alternative: simply leave most of the structure where it is. That is what you would expect a greedy oil firm to do: despoil the ocean just to save a lousy few million dollars. The surprise is, the cheap option may actually be greener.
For a start, it takes a lot of energy to move a rig. The ships that would be needed to shift California’s largest one would emit 29,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, by one estimate. And moving a rig disturbs the organisms that have attached themselves to its underside, or jacket. Far better, some say, to turn old rigs into coral reefs.
“Reefing” typically involves bringing a platform’s above-water parts ashore and cropping the lower parts to leave at least 26m of clearance: deep enough for ships to pass over, yet shallow enough for photosynthesis to nourish organisms on its upper reaches (see picture). Oil-rig reefs may shelter and feed up to eight tonnes of fish. In 2009 Shell moved a jacket in the Gulf of Mexico ten kilometres (six miles) away. The fish followed.
More than 490 platforms in American waters have become reefs in the past three decades. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement urges states to issue reefing permits. State coffers gain: oil firms typically hand over half the money they save by reefing.
Those savings vary greatly. Small platforms in shallow waters can often be removed for $10m, but sometimes for as little as $1m, according to DecomWorld, a consultancy. But for states with lots of offshore oil rigs, the windfalls soon add up. Mississippi pocketed an average of $625,000 for each of the 12 permits it has issued, according to Melissa Scallan of the state’s Department of Marine Resources. Louisiana’s take has averaged $270,000 per reefing—and the state has seen 336 of them, says Mike McDonough of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Currently, less than a tenth of America’s old oil and gas platforms are reefed. Sometimes the reasons for this are practical. For example, platforms may be removed if waiting for a permit means weathering another hurricane season (in 2005 150 defunct platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were toppled by winds and waves). Operators typically favour reefing but it is not always economical or allowed, says David Welch of Stone Energy Corporation. The firm has only reefed 12 of the 60 Gulf of Mexico platforms it has decommissioned.
That share is likely to grow. Within five years oil firms will be reefing one offshore rig in four, predicts Quenton Dokken of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group. Gulf states, particularly Louisiana and Texas, are making “a big push” to streamline the permitting process, he says.
Far bigger savings are possible in the deep waters off California. Four years ago the Golden State passed a law allowing reefing. Operators are loth to estimate costs publicly, but the Tulane University Energy Institute reckons that reefing the state’s 27 platforms could save $2 billion. A platform or two could be retired as early as next year, though rising oil prices may mean they keep pumping longer.
The California Ocean Science Trust, a research group that has advised lawmakers, thinks that platforms increase marine life and should not all be removed. Skyli McAfee, the group’s director, describes this conclusion as “a big fat duh”. Studies by Milton Love, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, support it. Oil platforms serve as “excellent nursery grounds” that boost fish populations, he says. The bocaccio, a rockfish whose numbers are worrying fishing authorities, is one big beneficiary.
Yet the odds of preserving most oil-rig reefs look bleak. Public opposition is robust. Not one platform off California has been reefed. Activists quote the findings of scientists such as James Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, who studied isotopes, tissue caloric densities and the stomach contents of creatures from both natural and artificial reefs and concluded that the latter generate no extra biomass. The Environmental Defence Centre in Santa Barbara, a group that files anti-development lawsuits, advocates the complete removal of oil platforms. Linda Krop, its chief counsel, says that abandoned structures might damage anchors, rob natural reefs of fish and even leach poisons. She does, however, acknowledge the environmental damage associated with complete removal.
When reefs cause grief
Greenpeace, a pressure group, makes a different argument. John Hocevar, its head of ocean campaigns, concedes that in some locations reefed platforms, if non-toxic, may increase marine life. But they should be banned anyway, he says, because they save the oil firms money and therefore encourage them to drill more.
The debate is likely to intensify. In the Gulf of Mexico some 400 platforms are now being decommissioned each year. Divers and many fishermen want more to be reefed; shrimpers complain that reefs prevent them from dragging nets across parts of the ocean floor. In California operators must decide quickly if they wish to turn redundant rigs into reefs. Until 2017 firms can keep 45% of the savings. After that the figure falls to 35% until 2023; then it drops to just 20%.
For now, the evidence suggests that reefing is a rare policy. It is both eco-friendly and pays for itself.
Sea level rise continues to destroy last good coral reefs on Majuro for landfill, eliminating their Shore Protection:
Please sign Dean Jacobson’s petition against the destruction of the last good coral reefs on an island being flooded by the sea. Click HERE…
Dean Jacobson was arrested for documenting the destruction of the reef, and requesting that an environmental assessment be carried out. He was then fired from his job as Professor of Biology at the Coral of the Marshall Islands and officially deported. At time of posting he is packing up his research materials and possessions prior to be expelled from the Marshall Islands.