2020 Florida Artificial Reef Summit
Bringing the Future of Florida’s Artificial Reefs into Focus
Florida has one of the most active artificial reef programs among the 15 Gulf and Atlantic coastal states involved in artificial reef development. Since the 1940s, more than 3,800 planned public artificial reefs have been placed in state and federal waters off Florida’s coast. The FWC Artificial Reef Program provides financial and technical assistance to coastal local governments, nonprofit corporations and state universities to construct, monitor and assess artificial reefs.
Frequently Asked Questions
One or more objects of natural or human origin intentionally placed on the seafloor to enhance marine life for human use through the creation of new reef habitat.
No. Artificial reef construction can only be completed by state or local coastal governments (County or City) in authorized permitted areas. The Army Corps of Engineers does not issue artificial reef permits directly to the general public (private citizens, fishing clubs, and nongovernmental organizations) due to long-term liability coverage requirements.
Any placement of artificial reef materials outside a valid U.S. Army Corps of Engineers artificial reef permitted areas is a violation of the Army Corps permit and may constitute illegal ocean dumping, an activity which carries significant federal penalties.
However, there is only one program in Florida restricted to Escambia, Bay, and Okaloosa County, where private individuals can apply to deploy their own unpublished reefs in an existing county-held permitted area. The process typically involves completion of County applications forms, pre-deployment reef materials inspections, fees, and post-deployment verification of placed material.
To learn more about the private reef inspection programs, please contact the artificial reef coordinators for Escambia, Okaloosa, or Bay County.
If you are not located in these three counties, no private reefs are permittable.
Allowable materials include:
- Concrete material
- Limestone boulders
- Heavy- gage steel (1/4 inch thick minimum)
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. Deployed material is required to be heavy, stable, durable and non-polluting and provided long-term habitat enhancement.
Please reference Guidelines for Marine Artificial Reef Materials, 2nd Edition (2004), GSMFC (2004), produced by the Gulf and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissions for additional information.
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.
Prohibited items include:
- fiberglass boats
If you have a derelict vessel and it does not meet the criteria for approved material, please visit the disposal resources page.
Please contact FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management at (850) 487-0554 or email us at ArtificialReefDeployments@MyFWC.com. Please provide a detail description of the material including material composition and amount as well as a representative photo.
Many reef projects depend on material donations and we appreciate you contribution.
Artificial reefs are beneficial for multiple reasons including:
- Enhancing recreational and diving opportunities
- Providing socio-economic benefits to local coastal communities
- Increasing reef fish habitat
- Mitigation reefs to replace hard bottom habitat lost through activities such as beach re-nourishment and damage caused by vessel groundings
- Oyster reef regeneration
- Shoreline protection
Please reference “Understanding the Ecology of Artificial Reefs: No Simple Answers” for a more detailed Q&A on Artificial Reef benefits.
Look for this symbol when purchasing fishing equipment, motor fuel and fishing licenses!
FWC Artificial Reef Programs provide an annual grant for the construction and monitoring of Florida’s artificial reefs. Grant funding is provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration and the State of Florida’s Marine Trust Conservation Fund. Both are established as a user-pay, user-benefit program. Excise taxes from the purchase of fishing equipment and motor fuel is collected and appropriated for Sport Fish Restoration funding and a portion of the cost for a state fishing license is appropriated to the Marine Trust Conservation Fund to restore and better manage Florida’s fishery resources.
Check out this SFR video
Through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program and state’s saltwater fishing license revenues, the FWC Artificial Reef Program provides annual financial grants to local government, nonprofit organizations, and state universities for new reef construction and monitoring. To date, Florida has distributed more than $26,575,000 for artificial reef related activities.
Our program relies on these cooperative partnerships to accomplish six general goals detailed in our strategic plan:
- Assure long-term social, economic and quality of life values of artificial reefs
- Use artificial reefs in scientific research
- Use artificial reefs as a component of fisheries management
- Identify new artificial reef funding sources
- Improve intergovernmental coordination for artificial reef development
- Support local marine ecosystem stewardship
Our program continues to strive to achieve and expand upon these goals. An important aspect of our program is not only to deploy artificial reefs, but to monitor their economic and environmental impacts. Monitoring projects that have been awarded grants include social economic studies, reef spacing and design, reef succession, juvenile fish recruitment, and comparisons of artificial reef fish communities with those on adjacent natural reefs.
In addition to grants, FWC staff conducts statewide compliance and performance monitoring using SCUBA, sidescan sonar, and underwater video to provide local reef coordinators with assessment information that can assist in permitting, outreach and reef productivity.
The FWC Artificial Reef Program, in conjunction with Florida Sea Grant, coordinate annual regional artificial reef workshops throughout Florida to exchange information, lessons learned, and provide critical inter-county networking opportunities between state, non-profit organizations, marine contractors, and the public. In addition to our annual regional workshops, a statewide Artificial Reef Summit is held every 5 years.
Workshops are often broadcast on Facebook Live for remote participation and video recordings of each past workshop/summit are posted on the Florida Sea Grant webpage.
The NRDA Early Restoration Phase III Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration project is to provide additional long-term recreational opportunities through construction and restoration of artificial reefs to supplement the recreational opportunities that were lost during the BP Oil Spill.
FWC was awarded $11,463,587 of funding to appropriate to the five counties most effected by the spill. This project includes the deployment of at least 3,000 prefabricated artificial modules within 48 different permitted areas located in state waters. Once complete, this will be one of the largest artificial reef construction projects in the history of Florida’s Artificial Reef Program.
In addition to reef construction, monitoring activities include:
- Pre-construction natural bottom and/or historical resource surveys
- Post-construction biological and structural surveys
- Human-use monitoring to determine angler/diver use
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.
Permits require all deployments to be documented and location verified. Prior to deployments the permit holder must submit a Reef Material Cargo Manifest Form informing the appropriate agencies of the proposed deployment plan (material type, amount, planned location etc.). After the deployment is complete, the permit holder then must submit a Material Placement Report detailing the verified location and material that was deployed. This form is what FWC Artificial Reef Program uses to track and publish all artificial reef sites.