Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Miami’s Artificial Reef Program

January 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

MiamiArtificialReefProgram_Photo_8Did you ever wonder what happens to a sunken ship? No need to wonder that in Miami, as the Miami-Dade County Artificial Reef Program uses sunken ships — and other materials from the ocean’s floor — to create safe, manmade reefs.

For more than 30 years, Miami-Dade County has overseen the deployment of an extensive amount of material in Miami’s coastal waters among 11 inshore and 17 offshore artificial reef sites. Materials used include almost 50 large vessels, two retired oil production platforms, thousands of tons of cast concrete materials and natural limestone, specially designed and pre-fabricated modules, an aircraft, and U.S. Army surplus tanks.

Under the supervision of Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management’s Restoration and Enhancement Section, the program has placed more than 20 acres of materials below. The result, particularly in the last 10 years, has been the restoration of nearly 90 acres of marine habitat. In addition to reviving sea life, the manufactured reefs help protect Florida from hurricanes, intense coastal storms, wave damage, and beach erosion.

Creating artificial reefs in local coastal waters began in 1920 when an abandoned ship on the Miami River was sunk off the coast to create a new fishing area. In the 1940s, construction ramped up because of efforts by charter boat captains on Miami Beach, and starting in 1969 many large vessels and other artificial reef materials were deliberately sent to the bottom.

Miami-Dade County started its program in 1981 in order to coordinate manufactured reef construction. The municipal effort highlighted restoration goals and amplified the effectiveness of community resources. Thereafter, the County launched a permit process to regulate offshore and inshore reef creation at sites that span the length of Miami-Dade’s 35 nautical-mile coast.MiamiArtificialReefProgram_Photo_7

Each site attracts reef-building plants and sea life and draws all sorts of organisms including sponges, barnacles, clams, and corals. These newcomers cover the durable, stable, and environmentally safe materials from top to bottom. Such an environment in turn entices fish and other marine animals to move into sea community. In fact, the artificial reefs attract so many fish that the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council designated the Key Biscayne Artificial Reef Site as a Special Management Zone in 1990 to limit the impact of unrestrained fishing pressure by banning fish traps and spear guns, among other equipment. Such prohibitions maintain the most recreational uses of the sites, including wreck diving on the concentrated areas of sunken maritime vessels.

For more information about the location and depth of the reefs, and to see before and after photos of some of the sites, visit MiamiDade.gov. To arrange for donations to the Miami-Dade County Artificial Reef Program, email reefs@miamidade.gov.

By Melissa McMahon

Photos courtesy of Miami-Dade County Artificial Reef Program

Artificial Reef Program Website: http://www.miamidade.gov/environment/reefs.asp

webPlus_web_green1 Additional Photos of the Reefs


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