The Business of Building Artificial Reefs An aquatic exhibits designer crafts a plan to reinvigorate his state's marine life and fishing industry.
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Christopher Wojcik grew up surfing, fishing and diving the waters near Point Pleasant, N.J., a shore town known for its long beaches, arcades and nightlife. His passion for exploring the ocean never let up. In 1998, after getting a master's degree in biological oceanography from Western Washington University, Wojcik returned to New Jersey. There he was asked to help improve the animal habitats at one of his hometown's most popular attractions, Jenkinson's Aquarium. He responded by launching Ionature, a Bay Head, N.J., firm that designs and builds exhibits and habitats for zoos and aquariums.
As Ionature grew, Wojcik traveled around the U.S. developing educational materials, videos, structures and other aquatic installation elements for clients such as the Discovery Channel, Miami Metrozoo (now Zoo Miami) and Oregon Coast Aquarium. (And, after dropping his mobile phone in the water one too many times, he helped invent Save-A-Phone, a packet that dries electronic devices post-dunking.)
No matter how far away he traveled, Wojcik remained worried about the limited reefs off the New Jersey coastline and the threat of overfishing. He started exploring a possible fix he'd learned about while working at Jenkinson's: artificial reefs. By sketching ideas for reef structures that could provide cover for young fish and crustaceans, surface area for encrusting organisms and interstitial spaces for other creatures, eventually he arrived at a design of a giant concrete-and-steel horseshoe crab.