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)
Yes it is about time we help rather than just destroy, Cadman-LT. I remember seeing the plane that was deliberately crashed for the movie Catch 22 off the shore in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It wasn't intended to become a haven for small fish, but it did.
Ann - Have you seen a formal definition yet of "swarming"? There seems to be a number of companies working on this, but where is the line currently being drawin betweens "swarms" and coordinated operation? Is it the fact that the individual members of a swarm have no independant control and the mission is simply given to the "whole" with some type of coordinated artificial intelligence giving commands to the individual?
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.
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.