Hawaiian Skin Diver Magazine, Jan 2013


Hawaiian Skin Diver Magazine, Jan 2013
VER SINCE A KIWI NAMED Dr. Bill Ballantine brought
the concept of marine protected areas to our shores in
the early 90’s, many of us have been fighting for our way
of life ever since. The result has been the closure to fishing in massive areas of the California ocean in the form
of Marine Protected Areas (MPA).
The No-fishing zones are 20 percent geographically but include up to 50 percent of the most productive
fishing areas—in essence our world has been cut in half. Now the fishing
pressure will be compacted into the open areas. To make things worse,
much of the open area is inferior, with less productive types of reef. Add
it all up and the fishing impact on every meter of open water due to the
closures may increase significantly and unless we work to find a solution,
overfishing might now occur.
I grew up in Paradise Cove in Malibu, a humble seaside community.
Although not rich, we were wealthy with ocean access. The finger reefs
and the Big Kelp reef in front of Paradise Cove are my natal harvesting
grounds; access to them formed my entire character, gave us food for
our home when we needed it and created an enduring bond with the sea.
100% of my natal harvesting grounds are now closed to ours and future
After January 1, 2012 rolled around and the steely knife blade of the
new closures sunk into our collective flesh, many of us found ourselves
standing on the bluffs peering into the once-free ocean. Spearfishermen
like other groups of hunter gatherers (native Americans) have been demonized and relegated to a new type of reservation system.
With our hearts broken and our souls crushed, all of us now ask in a
single unified voice, “What do we do now?”
The answer is right in front of us: Make more reefs.
A year ago I set out to form the non-profit now called Fish Reef
Project (www.fishreef.org). We are a group of Santa Barbara based
spearos, fishermen, eco tour operators, academics, marine biologists and
fisheries PhDs.
The goal of the Fish Reef Project is ambitious, yet it is achievable. We
plan to make a well-designed five acre Fish Reef within 15 miles of several
harbors in Southern California within the next three to five years. Some
day we plan to extend our reach to Hawaii.
Chris Goldblatt / www.fishreef.org
The reefs will be made of a quarry rock with a raised center flanked
by doublewide spokes of reef balls. The hub and spoke design will allow
kelp rooms to form and allow fish more space to school up and breed. The
1,800-pound cement reef balls have an average dimension of 3x4 feet. The
many holes and hollow center of the reef balls create exponential surface
and cave areas which give them the life-holding capacity of a boulder six
times their size.
A limiting factor to increasing new life in the sea is habitat. Most of the
seafloor is reef-less muddy bottom. Most life in the sea, begins as plankton.
In most cases plankton must have hard bottom to settle on in order to
become greater life forms. Without hard bottom the plankton mostly dies and
becomes dandruff-like matter called detritus, hence the need for more reefs.
With Fish Reefs, we can increase the number of places we have to dive
while decreasing overall fishing pressure. We can reduce chances of diver
death by boat strike by spreading out the vessels. We can create new life in
the sea and study opportunities. We can unify the now divided ocean community to come together and create new reefs. The reefs will quickly yield
manifold measurable net benefits. From the ashes of the MPA devastation
we can create a paradise while increasing the level of abundance in the
coastal waters of many life forms.
There are already 500,000 reef balls in 70 countries. NOAA has made
a reef ball reef in Alaska while Edison made the 174-acre SONGS reef near
San Onofre. In both cases the reefs have created flourishing kelp ecosystems in less than 18 months. The reefs are permanent life-giving legacies
for all who help create them.
California Fish and Game has already made about 100 reefs, most
support massive amounts of life- sadly their reefing program was defunded
in 1989 leaving the private sector to step in and take over.
To succeed, at times we must extend an olive branch to groups who
have caused us great harm in the past. It is imperative that we take the
high road, consider ourselves educators and leaders and show the world
that there are ways to have a healthy ocean but without hurting humans
in the process.
PHOTOS » Deployment day. Photo_Reef Ball Foundation > Rendering of a Fish
Reef after one year. Image_Amadeo Bachar 2 > Actual reef ball just 18 months
after deployment in Vancouver B.C.
The Fish Reef Project has come
into being with the help of generous
supporters such as Santa Monica
Seafood, PotentSea.com, Terry Maas,
JBL, Jay Riffe Cathy Lee Needleman,
Phil Herranen, Daryl Wong, Blue Water
Hunter, Titan spear-guns, Kelly Meyer,
Ricky Schroder and Amadeo Bachar. But
to make the reefs a reality we need those
with means who want to create a permanent legacy to step up and write large
checks. All donations are appreciated
and naming rights to the reefs will go
to the single largest donor for each site.
For many, spearfishing has returned to its roots as a sustainable
means of feeding ourselves. We are usually selective with our take and
there is no by-catch. Our carbon footprint per pound of protein is low and
we risk it all with each breath hold. The fish we eat is pure and procured
outside the corporate system. Spearos are now ambassadors of sustainability and we need to keep that image alive by making a unified effort to
create new life giving habitat in the sea through the creation of Fish Reefs.
I would like to thank our dedicated team, Lonnie Nelson, Tony Huerta,
Nicky Goldblatt, Tyler Vanderlip, Dr. Abbot, Nick Kautzman, Captain Bacon,
Andy Taylor and many more who have and will donate thousands of unpaid
man hours to deliver you an ocean that is healthy, robust and full of life.
In June we deployed the first two reef balls in a pilot project off Santa
Barbara –in just eight weeks the reefs are already home to rockfish, perch,
octopus and several species of crab; they are covered in barnacles and sea
stars. Soon they can be used to restore abalone, increase lobster abundance
and be the base anchors for a thriving kelp ecosystem where monster white
sea bass and calicos will roam. We openly welcome everyone to be a part of
this cutting edge ocean restoration and enhancement project. PAU
Long live a free and
healthy ocean!
PHOTOS » Above: Chris
Goldblatt, founder and CEO
of the Fish Reef Project. >
Right: Blueprint for a reef
Increased fishing opportunity closer to home.
Reduces acid levels in the ocean while converting green-house
gases (via kelp growth).
Increases biomass by up to 5,000 percent.
Coral Restoration.
Improves water quality from the many reef based filter-feeders
cleaning the water.
Create new life (not just suck it from other areas).
Reefs mimic natural ocean bottom and appear to be completely natural.
Reduce overfishing and compaction.
Reduce chances of diver death by boat strike.
Increase revenues for Dept. of Fish and Game, city, sport and commercial
fishing operations while creating study opportunities for academia and NGOs.
Unite the ocean community and provide a PR boost for NOAA and DFG.
Increase breeding success of fish and invertebrates.
Reduce fishing pressure on existing natural reefs.