About the Artificial Reef Program
The Collier County artificial reef program is managed by the county’s Coastal Zone Management Department. In addition, the county coordinates with the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Agent, fishing guides, and local agencies to help monitor and maintain reef sites within the county.
There is quite an elaborate process involved in the construction of an artificial reef. Each proposed artificial reef site must be permitted. This process can take 6-9 months to complete. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) is the permitting authority for proposed reefs in federal waters, while both the ACOE and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) assume permitting responsibility in state waters.
The Coastal Zone Management Department must conduct a bottom survey of the entire area proposed for reef development to ensure that the bottom is suitable (hard sand or rock base), and without biological (seagrass, coral reef, shellfish or other hard bottom communities) or historical resources. Under current regulations, an artificial reef’s height cannot exceed one half the total water column depth at mean low water (MLW). The minimum allowable depth for an artificial reef in bays or estuaries is twelve feet MLW. An artificial reef cannot exceed one quarter mile in length on a side, and cannot be located in a shipping lane.
Annual monitoring post deployment is conducted to evaluate reef stability and diversity and quantity of fish species. Funding for artificial reef construction and monitoring can come from grants, local government support, donation, in-kind support, or any combination of these.
Why Artifical Reefs?
Florida has a very active artificial reef program, one of the most active of the Gulf and Atlantic States. In addition to increasing reef fish habitat, artificial reefs improve recreational and charter fishing and diving opportunities, provide a socio-economic benefit to the local community, minimize user conflicts, and facilitate reef research. Of Florida’s 35 coastal counties, 34 are involved in some type of artificial reef development.
The concept of artificial reefs is not a new one; over the past several decades objects such as bath logs, bath tubs, refrigerators, tires and anything else that could provide structure were dumped on the sea bottom to attract fish and other marine life.
Due to environmental and public safety concerns, allowable materials now focus on heavy, stable, durable and non-polluting materials. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) will only allow clean concrete or rock, clean steel boat hulls, other clean, heavy gauge steel products with a thickness of ¼-inch or greater and prefabricated structures that are a mixture of clean concrete and heavy gauge steel to be used as artificial reefs in state waters. This eliminates fiberglass hulls, cars, tires, refrigerators, and many of the other previously used materials as possible reef candidates.