Nature Matters: Shipwrecks provide habitat for Lake Superior fish

By KBJR News 1

February 4, 2014 Updated Feb 4, 2014 at 12:08 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
Shipwrecks fascinate divers and they also fascinate fish.
The Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth plans to combine all three in its new "Shipwrecks Alive" display currently under construction.

"We're going to be looking at this as how does the environment affect a wreck and how does the wreck affect the environment. What moves into it?" said Jay Walker of the aquarium.

Anglers know the answer; it's fish looking for structure.

"Many fish are looking for structure to hide. It protects them." said aquarium educator Sarah Erickson.

It protects them at least until predator fish move in to complete the food chain.
The aquarium's new exhibit wants to educate people on that chain by featuring the S.S. America, a sunken vessel just off the coast of Isle Royale.
That wreck is already home to numerous Great Lakes aquatic species.

"We're seeing things like lake trout, sculpin and small things like the elusive fresh water sponges." said Erickson.

The exhibit will compare and contrast the S.S. America with shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean.
In the cold water of Lake Superior, evidence shows a shipwreck is less of an environmental risk than in other bodies of water.

"We're not going to see the degradation on these ships. They stay pretty pristine." said Walker.

"The folks at the aquarium want to stress that the random shipwreck can be good for aquatic habitat but keep in mind that doesn't mean you should go out and scuttle boats randomly thinking you're helping out." said reporter Dave Anderson.

"I would not recommend that at all, obviously!" laughed Walker.

But, the aquarium crew would like to spread the word that a shipwreck can sometimes be considered underwater recycling of a sort.

"We're trying to showcase the fact that many of these wrecks are then used. They have a second life to them." said Erickson.

In Duluth for Nature Matters, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

The Shipwrecks Alive exhibit is expected to open on July, 1st of this year.