A team of under-water specialists are putting Torbay on the map with Lego-like giant cubes

The 'Lego' like cube used to create an artificial reefThe 'Lego' like cube used to create an artificial reef

An award-winning team of marine specialists are quietly putting Torbay on the world-wide map – and bringing our under-water ecosystems back to life. They are also doing it with giant, Lego-like cubes made of low carbon concrete called “Reef Cubes”.

ARC Marine, based out of the Brixham laboratory at Freshwater Quarry and working with Plymouth University, are using the cubes to create an artificial reef to enhance an ‘aquaculture’ site in Tor Bay - which could give a boost to tourism.

The cubes help to repair reef ecosystems destroyed by fishing practices and increase commercial fish species.

The project, Reef Enhancement for Fisheries and Aquaculture Sites, was funded by the Government. A three-month feasibility study will hopefully pave the way for a larger research and development project in the late summer.

Tom Birbeck, James Doddrell, Sam Hickling, James Murphy - the ARC Marine team picking up their awardTom Birbeck, James Doddrell, Sam Hickling, James Murphy - the ARC Marine team picking up their award

The project to test the actual cement mix was first started off Torbay in 2016.

The latest has just finished after starting last December and involved working with the fishing community at Thatcher Rock.

The artificial reef attracts sea life and consequently species like spider crabs and lobsters which can be fished without damaging sea habitats.

The team has now applied for £250,000 further funding from DEFRA and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science for an 18-month project to extend the reef by 50 per cent with monitoring.

An edible crab takes up home on the reefAn edible crab takes up home on the reef

Tom Birbeck, ARC Marine director, is a 31-year-old commercial diver. The team also comprises an oceanographer, marine scientist, marine biologist, engineer and another diver as well as offshore energy consultants with over 37 years in the oil and gas industry based in Aberdeen.

The project could create an eco-tourism hub for the Bay to benefit aquaculture and the fishing community and provide an opportunity for local and visiting divers to dive down to the reef.

“We are hoping that Torbay Council will see the value of man-made reef systems and fund further projects,” says Tom.

ARC Marine have several pilots under way. Reef Cubes will be deployed around an offshore wind turbine in the Dutch North Sea later this year. The company was named as a winner at the Maritime UK Awards 2019. It was set up In 2015 by Tom and James Doddrell as the first eco-engineering company in Europe specialising in accelerating reef creation. It was helped in its early days by TDA to explore international markets.