3D printing lays ground for coral reef rescue push

Sino Group, Ocean Park and non-profit enterprises aim to build 20 square meters of artificial coral reefs in Deep Water Bay using the world's first 3D-printed terracotta reef tiles to rehabilitate the coral habitat in Hong Kong's southern waters over the next three years.

The Coral REEFStoration project will seed more than 120 local rescued coral fragments to recreate habitats for local marine life on 20 square meters on the ocean floor, which has seen intensified coral bleaching as a result of global warming and rising sea temperatures.

The joint effort by the University of Hong Kong's ecosocial enterprise archiREEF, Sino Group, Ocean Park, The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel and the Hong Kong Innovation Foundation will make use of archiREEF's proprietary 3D-printed terracotta reef tiles.

The tiles, which act as a base that coral fragments can attach to, will be nurtured by a professional husbandry team at Ocean Park's coral nursery facility, then transferred to Deep Water Bay upon rehabilitation, with continued monitoring.

"Like Hong Kong - coral reefs are bustling cities under the sea," said David Baker, cofounder of archiREEF and associate professor of ecology and biodiversity. "The ecofriendly and scalable 3D-printed reef tiles can help corals achieve up to 98 percent survivorship."

From September 26 to October 26, applications will be accepted for an ambassador program that sees 100 students aged eight to 13 learn about the local coral reef ecosystem, biodiversity and basic marine conservation techniques.

Ten "Star Coral REEFStorators" who demonstrate outstanding performance in the program get to continue to receive in-depth knowledge through ecotours and coral husbandry experiences.

About 10,000 students from 20 primary and secondary schools will be able to attend online coral conservation seminars.

The hotel and archiREEF will host activities for children aged five to 12, including 3D reef tile printing and coral biology workshops to understand the importance of corals in the marine ecosystem.