Artificial Reefs

Introduction

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Marine Fisheries Management administers a state artificial reef program that provides financial and technical assistance to coastal local governments, nonprofit corporations and state universities to construct, monitor and assess artificial reefs.

Florida has one of the most active artificial reef programs among the 15 Gulf and Atlantic coastal states involved in artificial reef development. Because of its large extent of coastline and statewide involvement in reef activities, the Florida artificial reef program is the only state program that is not exclusively run at a state agency level. FWC depends on partnerships with local counties to hold reef permits and manage new reef construction.

Reef construction objectives include:

  1. Enhancing recreational and charter fishing and diving opportunities
  2. Providing a socio-economic benefit to local coastal communities
  3. Increasing reef fish habitat
  4. Reducing user conflicts
  5. Facilitating reef related research
  6. To do no harm to existing fishery resources, Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) or human health

Since the 1940s, more than 3,330 planned public artificial reefs have been placed in state and federal waters the state of Florida. FWC maintains a statewide database accessible to the public of all reef deployment locations.

Other artificial reef construction objectives beyond the scope of the FWC artificial reef program include:

  1. Mitigation reefs to replace hard bottom habitat lost through activities such as beach re-nourishment and damage caused by vessel groundings
  2. Oyster reef regeneration
  3. Shoreline protection

Funding

Approximately 70-100 public artificial reefs are constructed annually off Florida using a combination of federal, state and local government and private funds.

Since the Artificial Reef program was legislatively created in 1982, funds administered by the FWC are grants-in-aid pass through funding derived from annual U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program and state salt water fishing license revenues. This funding is used to reimburse local government, nonprofit organizations, and state universities for reef construction and monitoring. 

To date, Florida has distributed more than $26,575,000 for artificial reef related activities.

Monitoring

FWC staff conducts statewide compliance and performance monitoring of grant funded reef projects using SCUBA, sidescan sonar, and remotely operated underwater video.
Assessment can include fish censuses, mapping, video, photography and materials evaluation. 

In addition, grant funded research and monitoring projects have included studies on reef spacing and design, material stability, storm impacts, long-term studies of reef community succession, residency of benthic species, juvenile fish recruitment, and comparisons of artificial reef fish communities with those on adjacent natural reefs.

Permitting

Permitting is required for all artificial reef deployments. The FWC artificial reef program does not issue permits for artificial reef sites. This regulatory responsibility is carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) for proposed artificial reef areas in federal waters and by both the ACOE and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in state waters. Both of these regulatory agencies accept comments from FWC and other interested parties during the artificial reef application review process. Due to liability issues, associated with siting and placing materials on the sea floor, permits are not issued directly to private individuals or clubs for building artificial reefs.

Reef Materials

Allowable materials for artificial reef use are determined by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit criteria and tend to emphasize heavy, stable, durable and non-polluting materials. These criteria are based upon requirements for the use of non-hazardous material of sufficient stability and durability to insure that the materials and their component parts remain within permitted areas and last long enough to provide the intended habitat enhancement. Guidance is also provided by the Guidelines for Marine Artificial Reef Materials, 2nd Edition (2004), GSMFC icon_PDF.gif (2004), produced by the Gulf and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissions. 

In addition, all vessel deployments must be in compliance with the EPA and MARAD National Guidance: Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels Intended to Create Artificial Reefs. icon_PDF.gif

Many reef projects depended on material donations. If you have acceptable material for donation please contact FWC.

Photos and Video

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