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Swarming Robots Rescue Coral Reefs
9/18/2012

Coralbots will be trained to distinguish coral fragments from other objects, such as sponges and other sea creatures, as well as rocks and trash.   (Source: Murray Roberts/Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh)
Coralbots will be trained to distinguish coral fragments from other objects, such as sponges and other sea creatures, as well as rocks and trash.
(Source: Murray Roberts/Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh)

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: keep us updated
Rob Spiegel   9/27/2012 2:52:12 PM
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Good point on the deep sea oil wells, Akwaman. Over time, there is bound to be more breakdowns, more spills. This technology could help.

akwaman
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akwaman   9/27/2012 1:29:49 PM
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I really wish that would solve the problem.  Remember the story about Humpty Dumpty, you can put the pieces back together, but you may just end up with a pretty shell and no life.  I guess putting the subtrate back together again to allow new growth, but what will prevent it from happening again, and again?  To date, they haven't made a trawl that will roll over a ship very well.  Maybe this technology should be modified to fix things like damage to deep sea oil wells.

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   9/27/2012 10:14:47 AM
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Good idea, Akwaman. We just need to duplicate them a few thousand times.

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   9/27/2012 10:11:36 AM
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Akwa, outlawing the equipment that is designed to go over reefs makes sense. Yet, like you say, it's a large world to police. In the meantime it's good to see alternatives such as the swarming robots are getting developed to help correct the problem. I'd love to see those robots in action.

akwaman
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akwaman   9/27/2012 8:10:47 AM
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We could always call in Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherds... :)

akwaman
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akwaman   9/27/2012 8:05:18 AM
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Legislation only begins to curb the issue, Rob, especially when there is little way to control other countries, and the ocean is very big.  We can control our end by outlawing the equipment designed to be effective over reefs.  They would then stop doing it because their equipment will be ruined and/or lost.  Legislation has been proven to make a serious impact, although there will always be cheaters, and we can't police the world.

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   9/26/2012 5:20:02 PM
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Again, thanks for the info, Akwaman. I wonder how effective legislation would be. Would they actually be able to catch trawlers?

akwaman
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akwaman   9/26/2012 3:34:24 PM
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Good question, Rob, and a loaded one. Unfortunately, the best way is by intervention by governments, to create legislation that does not allow special trawling equipment designed to 'roll' over coral reefs.  Fishermen, just like most businesses and corporations, have no desire to protect the environment, they are there to make money.  We must have legislation in place that will force them to be concious of what they are doing. "Historically, industrial fishers avoided coral areas because their nets would get caught on the reefs. In the 1980s, rock-hopper trawls were invented; the large tires and rollers that were attached to the bottom of nets allow the nets to roll over any rough surface. Fifty-five percent of cold-water coral in Alaska that was damaged by one pass from a bottom trawl had not recovered a year later. In the Northeast Atlantic, there are scars up to 4 km long on the reefs from
bottom trawlers." Encyclopedia of Earth. 

We need to identify the regions where damage occurs and prevent the fishing over and around them, and outlaw the use of equipment that destroys the coral and reefs.  Coral typically grows very slowly, the fastest soft corals grow ~6 inches/yr. Most corals grow considerably slower, typically only 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch/yr.  Once destroyed or even damaged, the replacement of these corals can not keep up with the repeated destruction.  The other problem with corals, is that they usually grow on top of the skeletons of dead and dying coral, that is why the reefs continue to grow.  This process takes a very long time, and once gone, will not recover in a lifetime, or ever.

http://www.scubadiving.com/training/ask-expert/should-we-create-artificial-reefs

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   9/26/2012 3:01:47 PM
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Thanks for the info, Akwaman. Are there ways to protect the reefs from trawlers? 

akwaman
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akwaman   9/26/2012 2:57:32 PM
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Yes, Rob, we did learn this through accidents.  I live in Florida and there are many accidental sinkings that have created great dive spots and attract marine life of all kinds.  It turns out that two very important limiting factors in improving numbers of marine life are shelter and substrate.  Theses sunken ships provide both substrate for marine life that needs something hard to grow on (unlike sand) and offers great shelter and protection for juvenile and adult fish.  With substrate in mind, the swarming robots could possibly help rebuild a reef that is destroyed by things like trawlers, but they will continue to wreck the reefs if not somehow diverted.   Large sunken ships are avoided like the plague by trawlers, because they destroy the nets and are hazardous to the vessels themselves if snagged.  They are also easy to see with fish-finders and other sounding devices.  They are also documented on maps so that they can be easily avoided.  Rebuilding coral reefs is not an easy task, but anything they do to help it along should be examined.  I will be watching to see how this new technology works in the real world. 

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