A 3D printed reef to improve the ecosystem of the Pamlico River
BATH, NC (WITN) — You might not expect fish and 3D printing to be in the same story, but they make the perfect pair for a reef in the Pamlico River.
Today, WITN joined the North Carolina Coastal Conservation association by launching one hundred reef cubes into the water in an effort to help the ecosystem.
What does it take to maintain a strong coastal ecosystem? Experts say to look to the depths.
“It’s about starting from the bottom, isn’t it? And if you can bring habitat and structure and different hard substrates back to some of our bases, we can rebuild the food chain from the bottom up,” said Natrx CEO Leonard Nelson.
That’s the idea behind these cubes. If you think they look like cinder blocks, you’re not far off. These are made not only of concrete, but also of oysters and recycled products. The goal? To attract more fish, especially striped bass and speckled trout in the Pamlico River. The materials used in reef modules are commonly used in marine applications and are known to attract oysters and mussels, as well as crustaceans, invertebrates and other food chain organisms.
“This will give juvenile fish a place to hide and grow and then hopefully flourish and repopulate some of the area from a bit longer they’ve had a decrease in some fish in the region,” Grady-White said. Shelley Tubaugh, Director of Boat Marketing. These cubes are now under 16 feet of water in the Bayview Reef near Bath. They are part of a North Carolina Coastal Conservation Association project to restore the ecosystem.
Grady-White Boats helped pay for the effort. “The habitat is modified by the influence of man on it, and in this way we put back some natural habitat. Something that is man-made to enhance the natural habitat,” Tubaugh said.
This is good news for the fishermen who make up a large part of the surrounding region.
“There are a lot of people here who care about this, and there’s a lot of hard work going into it. When we first heard about the project it was a natural fit for us, so being here on rollout day is really exciting,” said Ray McKeithan of Nutrien Ag Solutions. They also helped fund the effort.
The 3ft by 3ft cubes are 3D printed using a new process called “dry foaming”. “Most people think of 3D printing a real little plastic, you know, a part or a tool. We’re trying to integrate the habitat into the infrastructure, so think about your roads, your bridges, to whole berries, then we need a lot of material, and so we can produce a 4,000-pound form in about 30 minutes,” Nelson said.
It’s not a new concept of trying to restore reefs, but it’s the first of a new method that organizers hope will see continued.
“Honestly, it’s really exciting because it’s the first-ever concrete reef in the world,” said Natrx President Matt Campbell.
Original efforts to create an artificial reef in the same location began in 2012. It was made using concrete reef balls and pipes.
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