/ opinion

Malaysian Tire Reefs, A Harmful Legacy

I previously wrote about the Osborne tire reef off the coast of Florida here. This is clearly the most popular tire reef to talk about and dominates any google search on the subject. Unfortunately these ecological disasters were not in any limited to Florida.

Malaysia engaged in huge tire reef programs that covered multiple locations. Reports I found showed that they engaged in this from 1975 to 1995 and used over 1 million tires for this purpose. They seem to have been dropped to the bottom in pyramid like structures tied together with propylene rope. It appears a major driver of this project was attempts to increase the fish population and the department of fisheries was responsible for the creation of these artificial reefs.

A review of the practice found that tires were extremely unsatisfactory for this purpose. The problems found were that tires move in storms and no matter how the tires are tied together they are simply too light in general to stay in place. Their surface is too smooth for any significant marine life growth beyond a thin layer of algae. The conclusion was that tire reefs should be considered a threat to marine life and not a benefit.

There appears to have been very little data collection after the cessation of the tire reef program and it is difficult to determine how much damage has been done. There tend to be less weather patterns that would move the tires significantly where Malaysia is located and that may be of some benefit but the damage will still be taking place. No significant clean up efforts have been undertaken.