With only three staff members, the Artificial Reef Subsection within the FWC – Division of Marine Fisheries Management may be small in number but their output as the liaison for 34 county artificial reef programs is huge. The team, which includes Jon Dodrill, Bill Horn and Keith Mille, assists in about 100 artificial reef deployments off the coast of Florida each year by providing technical support in the construction, planning and development of artificial reefs as well as federal and state grant funding opportunities that support about half of the reefs deployed in Florida a year. According to Keith Mille, who has been with the program for 12 years, “FWC’s artificial reef team communicates regularly with coastal counties via phone, email, conferences and workshops, and we encourage them to communicate with each other. We assist county programs with artificial reef inspections, site assessments and evaluations of new locations and reef materials.”
“We want to see a long-term benefit,” Mille said about what makes a good artificial reef. “A good artificial reef will be lasting, stable, will not move around when storms affect the area, and will not negatively impact the environment.”
Just like when building a home, the materials you choose are very important. The other very important consideration is location, location, location. Ideal sites for an artificial reef will have a stable sandy bottom without natural hardbottom or seagrass. Depth and proximity to navigation channels are also important to ensure boats don’t have a negative encounter with artificial reef habitat. Biological and fisheries management objectives are also brought into consideration during the site selection process, by evaluating target fish species life history and habitat needs, and weighing ecological contributions and trade-offs.
Several times a year, members of the team visit artificial reef sites to oversee deployments, check potential sites and even evaluate current sites to determine things like the number and types of fish utilizing the site, how the site is holding up against the elements and more. This information helps in future planning of other artificial reef sites.
Artificial reefs can provide a great fishing and diving experience while helping some of our managed species.
The artificial reef program is funded by Sport Fish Restoration, so remember; one way to help is to go fishing. Funds from your purchase of tackle or boat fuel go toward Sport Fish Restoration and help fund programs like this and the Division’s Outreach and Education programs.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.