Underwater World; Fraser Coast Fishos Know Artificial Reefs Are Great Places to Drop a Line and Take Home a Trophy or Two for Supper. but What Many Probably Don't Know Is What Else They Are Good for. Jennifer Chapman Looks at the Environmental Benefits of the Coast's Roy Rufus Artificial Reef, East of Big Woody Island

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Chapman

Syd Tanner has been diving for 20 years and has carried out plenty of observations of Roy Rufus over that time, whether for the Hervey Bay Artificial Reef Association or the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

He dives the area two times a month, giving him an intimate knowledge of the reef environment.

Mr Tanner agrees Roy Rufus is a top attraction for anglers, with a big population of fish including cod, snapper, sweetlip, coral trout and moses perch.

But, he says, one of its best aspects is that it relieves other fishing spots.

"If we didn't have that artificial reef there, all the other areas would be flogged to death by fishermen.

"The reef is good for encouraging fish life. Fish breed on the reef and then move out to other areas."

Roy Rufus was started in 1968, says Mr Tanner, thanks to three marine biologists from the University of Qld searching for a place to build a man-made reef.

"An idea was born to turn a barren sand bottom into an area thriving with fish life," Mr Tanner says. "With a good tidal flow, nutrients and plankton needing a home to call their own, thank you very much, the artificial reef was born.

"Within months barnacles and molluscs attached themselves to the metal surfaces, creating nurseries for future sea life.

"These days soft and hard corals grow profusely, supplying food for hundreds of different varieties of fish and sea creatures.

"Divers are amazed at the sight of large groper, schools of trevally, blackall and bait fish.

"Hiding amongst these sunken treasures are turtles, sea snakes and a variety of crustaceans seeking protection from the many kinds of marauding fish life that compete on a daily basis for food.

"Many countries around the world have come to believe artificial reefs are the way to go in the future for sustainable fish stocks, including Australia."

Today, Roy Rufus reef covers an area 2.4km by 1.6km along the eastern side of Big Woody Island.

Cars, boats, barges and tyres have all been dropped into the water, while the most recent addition was 70 large concrete pipes at the end of January.

Mr Tanner says it takes about three months before growth starts covering the concrete pipes because the smooth surface makes it difficult for barnacles to secure themselves to.

For decent growth, however, it can take up to 12 months, says Hervey Bay Artificial Reef Association president George Duck.

There is coral growing on all of the wrecks which are sitting 13 to 19 metres deep in the water, Mr Duck says.

He says fish move in straight away, good news for dive operators who head out daily and for fishermen.

Those fishermen must follow a one line, one hook policy because the reef is in a yellow zone. …