The Life Aquatic

Caribbean Islands to Have 3D Printed Coral Reefs

Coral Reefs

The Caribbean Island of Bonaire is bringing 3D printing to the coast, with an ambitious plan to help preserve fragile coral reefs. 

Coral reefs contain an extremely diverse ecosystem, and are important for protecting coastlines and a variety of underwater creatures. They’re also in grave danger because of growing hazards like pollution, climate change and disease.

On the Caribbean Island of Bonaire, the Harbour Village Beach Club has turned to ocean conservationist Fabien Cousteau for a solution. His proposal is to use 3D printing to help preserve the biological community beneath the waves.

Eric Ewoldt, Executive Director of Harbour Village explained:

“We are pleased to use advanced knowledge of prominent sea issues to make Bonaire an example for the Caribbean and other areas of the world. We know 3D printing efforts have worked in Monaco and the Gulf States among others. With the development of our Ocean Learning Center, now is the perfect time to launch this technology in Bonaire.”

You can watch Fabien talking about the project — and 31 days spent underwater — in the Ted Talk below.

3D Printed Coral Reefs to Generate Real Change

Additive manufacturing has been proposed before as a technique to help rescue coral reefs. Cousteau’s plan is to fabricate artificial coral specifically for the Caribbean coastline, with the same shape and texture as organic corals.

In order to attract different species, the prints will even have a similar chemical makeup. Many species rely on coral reefs for protection, including many fish, algae, crabs and polyps.

“3D printed corals can generate real change and establish real growth for reefs, one of the key attractions for visitors and divers alike in Bonaire,” Cousteau told the Caribbean Journal. “This technology is less labor-intensive than current coral restoration processes, creating a larger impact in a shorter amount of time.”

3D printing will take place on the island at the Harbour Village’s Ocean Learning Centre, while precise locations for artificial coral has not been decided yet.

What do you think? Can 3D printed coral reefs really save the oceans? Sound off in the comments.

coral reefs