While studying for my Rural Tourism exam (a course which is somehow more about ecotourism than rural tourism), I came across interesting information about artificial reefs. There are two kind of such reefs: those set-up intentionally, and those set-up unintentionally. While the unintentional reefs are mostly build around ship wrecks and are almost always preceded by water pollution, the other type is mainly built far from polluted places, in an effort to re-use remains of ships, planes and other such material and put them to a better use (prevent beach erosion, attract tourists, increase fish numbers and type of fishes).
As shown on Wikipedia, artificial reefs go a long way back, as the Ancient Persians blocked the mouth of the Tigris River to thwart Indian pirates by building an artificial reef. Also, during the First Punic War the Romans built a reef across the mouth of the Carthaginian harbor in Sicily to trap the enemy ships within and assist in driving the Carthaginians from the island.
Today, there are companies specialized in building artificial reefs, such as Artificial Reefs Inc. In Florida alone, there are hundreds of artificial reefs, mostly build on ship wrecks.Also, the Reef Ball Foundation is dedicated to rehabilitating reefs around the world. Up to know, they have been working in about 56 countries.
Creating artificial reefs does generate revenue if tourists see them as an attraction. And this is only a small part of a form of tourism called rehabilitation ecotourism. It involves rehabilitating highly modified and damaged areas and turning them into a popular travel destination. To make sure this form of tourism does not turn into severely damaging mass tourism, the sustainable growth of such attractions involves a constant focus on protecting the rehabilitated environment and on educating all participants in this regard.
If you want to know more on the subject of artificial reefs, I’d also recommend this article published by National Geographic.