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ARC Marine aims to protect the UK’s indigenous white-clawed freshwater crayfish population from extinction with their first custom-built reef structure at Vobster Quay, an inland water site and former quarry, near Radstock, Somerset.
The small Torbay-based company, who were given a starting loan by Virgin Startup, design and build artificial reefs that can block illegal fishing trawlers, provide a protective marine habitat for endangered and declining species, boost the stocks of overfished species and protect coastlines and underwater habitats from erosion.
ARC Marine is funding its world-first operation through a crowdfunding campaign, and chose the reef’s site due to its close proximity to Bristol Zoo, with whom they are collaborating in this joint effort to regenerate dwindling numbers of the globally-protected crayfish species.
Due to habitat destruction and the introduction of an aggressive and invasive US breed, the white-clawed freshwater crayfish is at risk of becoming extinct in the UK within 20-30 years.
“Artificial reefs can be very useful in enhancing marine life, but also double up as anti-trawling devices.” said Dr. Nicholas Higgs, Deputy Director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth’s COAST lab facility, undertakes tests on various structures built for a marine environment.
“Firstly, they provide structure by concentrating fish and nutrients around the reef, creating a whole ecosystem. They also prevent fishing in that area as these big structures stop ships towing fishing and trawling gear through the area.
“The ARC modules provide increased habitat complexity. By providing that living space, you should be able to increase the amount of crayfish that can live in habits like quarries and man-made water bodies.”