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Florida's Artificial Reefs

What are Artificial Reefs and Why Do We Need Them?
Artificial reefs are man-made habitats built from various materials including rock, old ships, heavy-gauge steel structures, concrete and prefabricated modules. They are placed in areas away from nature reefs, creating new marine life communities. Over the last several decades, both nursery and deeper offshore habitats for many fish and shell fish have been significantly reduced or heavily impacted by the development of our coastal areas, accidents, and severe storms. The reduction of these habitats, along with increased pressure on our remaining coastal resources, has lead to declines in different marine life populations. Almost every year, it seems another fishery or another marine animal becomes heavily regulated or protected.

This is why artificial reefs are so important. They provide food, shelter, protection, and spawning areas for hundreds of species of fish and other marine organisms. But artificial reefs are not just for fish. They also provide alternate areas for scuba divers and anglers to use, reducing the user pressure that natural reefs endure.

List of Artificial Reefs in Florida

To Build or Not to Build
Constructing artificial reefs is a way of enhancing marine habitats. However, this technique raises some issues. Do artificial reefs actually enhance fisheries stocks, or do they merely serve as fish attractors? Some scientists argue that artificial reefs decrease the fish population because fish gather at the reefs and are easier to catch. Others state that reefs not only attract fish but also increase the fish population by providing viable habitats.

In Florida, we have many different kinds of artificial reefs, but they all have something in common - they support fish, which in turn attracts anglers and recreational divers who spend money in local communities. As a result, business in coastal communities have great interest in bringing artificial reefs to their areas. Local coastal governments throughout Florida receive grants from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to fund artificial reef development. The challenge is to use reef technology to enhance fisheries stocks and, at the same time, provide the economical benefits that anglers and recreational divers bring to coastal areas.

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  artificial reefs in florida 

Florida Leads the Nation

Florida is the leading state in the number of active permitted artificial reef sites, with 329 now documented. Only one Florida county on the Atlantic coast and two on the Gulf coast have no artificial reefs. The first reef permit on file is dated November 1918. Over the years, more than 2700 artificial reefs have been permitted.

What are Artificial Reefs Made of?
Reef construction materials have changed over the years. In earlier days, surplus auto tires were used as convenient and inexpensive reef building materials. Surplus small craft and household plumbing, cooking stoves, and refrigerators were also popular materials. However, corrosion, covering by sand, and storm waves often cause these reefs to fall apart and scatter on the ocean's bottom so that they no longer were attractive to fish.

Reef construction has changed toward using more environmentally stable materials. Currently, materials such as cast concrete, bridge rubble, pipe materials, large storage tanks, and decommissioned ships and barges are being used to construct reefs. Several of the larger reefs use Liberty ships or similar large transport vessels. Abandoned oil platforms have been sunk off the Panhandle and Southeast and Northeast Florida coasts.

WARNING: Many artificial reefs lie in water depths that exceed the recommended sport diving limitations. Any swimmer, diver, or snorkeler shall approach or visit each artificial reef at his or her own risk. The Palm Beach County Artificial Reef Program and Committee, the Board of County Commissioners of Palm Reach County, and the County of Palm Beach are not responsible for any hazards which may exist or arise on, about, or near the artificial reefs, or for any injuries or fatalities which may occur as a result of any person's presence on, about, or near the artificial reefs.

Some text on this page provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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