The “Ad hoc Working Group on ARs and Open Sea Aquaculture” was created in 1989 inside the Italian Society of Marine Biology (SIBM) under the coordination of CNR-ISMAR Ancona (www.ismaran.it) on a proposal of Prof. Giovanni Bombace (SIBM newsletter 15/1989), Around twenty Italian researchers belonging to universities and research institutes joined the Group soon, followed by many others over the years.
Based on this initiative, a Mediterranean Working Group was created, coordinated by CNR-ISMAR of Ancona as well.The two Groups had several joint meetings (e.g. during CIESM and SIBM Congresses), promoting exchange of information among Mediterranean scientists involved in ARs and undertaking several initiatives. One of these was a survey of existing ARs in the Mediterranean (Bombace et al., 1993).
This process led to the UE Project “European Artificial Reef Research Network” (http://www.soes.soton.ac.uk/research/groups/EARRN/) (Coord. Dr. A. Jensen, Southampton University, UK) which started in 1996 and ended in 1998. The formal network consisted of 51 scientists from 36 Institutes and Universities within EU who were active in AR research. The aims of EARRN were:
- to promote knowledge on ARs projects in Europe, either in marine and hresh water;
- to increase cooperation among scientists involved in research on ARs;
- to identify common issues which needed of deeper investigation;
- to promote awareness of the scientific community on the socio-economic and management issues linked to the construction of ARs and encourage the integration of these aspects in developing future research proposals;
- to produce a detailed programme for future coordinate AR research in the EU and to identify the research groups best suited to carry-out work in a given area of interest;
- to initiate a reference library of European publications on ARs.
Since the end of EARRN the activities of the two Groups, both at national and European level, slowed down considerably, although the scientific interest regarding the effects induced by ARs in the marine environment has increased both at Italian and European level, as well as the use of artificial reefs for the management and protection of the marine environment and its resources.
In Italy, with the decentralization of several political and management issues from the National Government to the Regional Authorities, the artificial reefs’ development became a competence of the latters.
On the one hand it encouraged the proliferation of such initiatives at local level, but on the other hand some ARs were deployed without any serious technical-scientific support. Based on these statements and considering that Italy is still considered at international level a leading Country in the field of artificial reefs under both the technological and the scientific point of view, during the SIBM Congress held in Livorno in June 2009 it was proposed to relaunch the Artificial Reef Group extending its interest to all types of Artificial Habitats created in the aquatic environment.