Another first for Florida.
Last week the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association successfully deployed 59 news reefs off the coast of Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe, 10 of which were the aptly named super reefs.
These super reefs, taller than any reef previously contracted by the MBARA, have 10 feet of exposed rebar at the top to draw in fish like amberjack, wahoo, king mackerel and red snapper that hunt higher in the water column.
Though the growth on the reefs which establishes it as a habitat can take up to two years to form, bait fish will begin to visit within two days and the process can begin.
“We’ll watch how the structures perform for future construction purposes,” said MBARA President Bob Cox. “We’ll be diving them fairly often.”
Some of the reefs were grouped closely together while others were spread further apart. This will help the organization gather information and learn which type of reefs have the best performance and which arrays help to create a flourishing ecosystem. The deployment process took approximately five hours.
Reefs in last week’s deployment were placed in 18 new sites and two memorial reefs were expanded with private funds.
The reefs were placed 1-15 miles offshore and coordinates will soon be published on the MBARA website for those who wish to dive, fish or visit the locations.
The reefs, constructed by Walter Marine, in Orange Beach, AL, were builtfrom Florida limestone to promote natural marine growth on the hard substrates of the structures. Four different designs were crafted, ranging from 6-25 feet tall and weighing 4,000 to 36,000 pounds each and sit in depths from 85-104 feet.
“It’s great to see it complete,” said Cox. “You work, work, work…there’s lots of planning and logistics that goes into it.”
Cox said he was excited for the benefits it would provide for eco-tourism, whether it’s the divers who visit the area, the boaters, or the spear fishermen who free-dive reefs for amberjack.
The deployment, which had been in the planning stages since last January was made possible by a $120,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a $55,000 grant match from MBARA and $8,000 from private donors.
The MBARA partnered with the City of Mexico Beach and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to complete the $183,000 construction project. It was the largest project undertaken by MBARA to date.
“It’s good to have long range planning,” said Cox. “If you have that plan then you can really make the most of the short-notice opportunities that come along.”