Anglers and divers have 19 new reefs to visit thanks to the efforts of the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA), the City of Mexico Beach, and support from numerous organizations and members.
On Saturday, April 6, 62 reef modules worth over $91,000, found new resting places off the shores of Mexico Beach. The City of Mexico Beach received a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The rest came from donations, membership, fund raising, and three fishing tournaments--the annual MBARA Kingfish Tournament, the Mexico Beach Marina Offshore Classic, and the 98 Real Estate Group Ling Ding.
Reef modules of varying design, each weighing over 5,000 pounds, were placed in 19 locations, with one to eight structures submerged at each site. The reef modules, all made with steel reinforced concrete and limestone rock, include pyramids, rectangular grouper modules, layer-cake shaped ecosystems, and a new hybrid reef that consists of a grouper module topped by a small ecosystem.
This is the first time the hybrid reefs have been deployed in Florida, and MBARA research divers are anxious to find out what type of marine life will be attracted to them.
According to MBARA research diver Carol Cox, “Different structures attract different fish. Amberjack and red snappers are attracted to taller structures such as the pyramids, the grouper units act as low limestone ledges that are preferred by groupers, and ecosystems are a magnet for black sea bass. We find that placing different types of structures together has a dynamic effect, greatly increasing diversity on the reef. We hope the hybrid reef with its height, ledge, and crevices will attract the greatest diversity we have seen on any single artificial reef.”
During this deployment, MBARA added reefs to six existing sites that have become difficult to find over the years. MBARA President, Bob Cox, said, “It is important to maintain these reefs in honor of the people they were named after.”
Older reefs were often made with lighter or smaller materials that could be moved by powerful storms or covered by sand.
The deployment was overseen by Bill Horn of the FWC along with MBARA volunteers Bob and Carol Cox, Ron Childs, Jimmy Nicholson, and Captain Charlene Burke. MBARA volunteers were involved in every step of the artificial reef deployment--applying for permits, writing grants, and raising matching funds to earn points when competing for grants.
According to Horn, “Excellent planning by MBARA and excellent execution by Walter Marine” made the project a great success.
To get coordinates for the new reefs, visit MBARA’s website at www.mbara.org.