iSimangaliso Wetland Park Artificial Reef Monitoring Project
On 21st October 2008, two ocean going coal transport barges (DAR 1 and DAR 2), both 128.08 m in length, 24.38 m beam and 10.67 m height, ran aground on the beach at Cape Vidal after their tow chains snapped during heavy seas. A decision was taken by iSimangaliso management to scuttle these barges in the nearshore region to create two new artificial reefs in the area. These reefs would also serve as new dive-sites to the region. DAR 2 was scuttled in a depth of ca 42m on 12th November 2008 and DAR 1 was scuttled ca 600m closer inshore in a depth of 26m on the 16 December 2008.
Scientific literature indicates that artificial reefs carry a greater abundance, diversity and biomass of ichthyofaunal communities than natural reefs and as such they serve as a major draw-card for sport divers (e.g. Arena et al. 2007). Benthic colonisation of artificial reefs has been shown to be rapid initially but variable according to surface orientation (Boaventura et al. 2006).
The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Elwandle Node has been appointed to document and monitor the biological colonisation of these wrecks over the long-term.