The Gulf waters off Bay County offer some of the finest charter fishing and diving in the state, each year drawing thousands of visitors who inject money and jobs into the local economy. But recent events, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and depletion of the marine population caused by invasive lionfish, have hurt fisheries throughout the region. To help create healthier fisheries, Florida Sea Grant agents with UF/IFAS Extension are partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, county government and local organizations to deploy and monitor more artificial reefs. Modern artificial reefs don’t harm wildlife or the environment, and they help to disperse the pressure fishing causes on fish populations, promoting healthier fish stocks. According to recent studies, artificial reefs in northwest Florida represent a benefit-to-cost ratio of 131 to 1, with visitors spending over $131 million dollars in Bay County during the days they were engaged in fishing and diving on or near artificial reefs. This supported 2,727 employees who received a total of more than $24 million in wages. Local divers and anglers spend approximately $16.74 million directly attributable to the presence of artificial reefs, generating an additional $1.6 million in wages and salaries for 147 employees.
One of five concrete “Super Reefs” being deployed 3 miles off Pier Park. Photo by Allen Golden