April 5, 2005 Harry Freyn, owner of the St. Thomas-based Dependable Maritime Service, wants to install concrete structures called "reef balls" at various locations around St. Thomas to help repair reefs and, in one spot, to provide a memorial to the dearly departed. The reef balls create an artificial reef in areas where no reef exists or where the coral reef is damaged. They sit adjacent to the reef.
"It's good for the fisheries," Freyn said.
Rick Nemeth, director of the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, said Tuesday that the reef balls are a big improvement over what is usually used to make artificial reefs. He said that most artificial reefs are made of old cars, tires and the like.
"Essentially, our trash," he said.
He said the reef balls will accommodate various types of fish and support the growth of organisms that feed the fish.
Freyn recently applied for a minor Coastal Zone Management permit for his project. Reef balls are concrete structures with holes in them so fish can swim in and out.
"They look like an igloo," Freyn said.
For starters, he wants to install reef balls off Brewers Bay so UVI students can study the reef project. He plans another one off Coki Point, where tourists often explore the reef. And one between Hans Lollik and Outer Brass islands in about 60 feet of water will serve as a memorial called an "eternal reef," in which a deceased person's ashes are mixed with the concrete to make the reef ball.
While they come in various sizes, Freyn said he expects to use ones four feet by six feet in size. He said the concrete used in creating the reef balls is treated with silica to make it environmentally friendly.
The Reef Ball Foundation's Web site at www.reefball.com/ indicates the company is a non-profit organization formed to help restore reefs around the world.
Freyn said he expects to become a reef ball distributor once his CZM permit is approved. The molds to make reef balls cost $4,000 each, he said.
Freyn moved to St. Thomas in 1984, founded Dependable Trash Pickup, and operated that business until 1995, he said. He then became a boat captain, and now works on a tugboat. His company also runs the line crew at Crown Bay Dock.
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