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Bay County Artificial Reef Monitoring Plan

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), reef monitoring is now a required component of any Florida artificial reef program. Monitoring includes recording the presence or absence of plant, invertebrate and fish species at a given reef site; measuring physical attributes, such as water temperature or subsidence of reef materials; and surveying reef use or determining the economic expenditures by anglers and divers who visit the reef.

Artificial reefs have been constructed in the coastal waters of Bay County for at least 70 years.  Initially, commercial and recreational fishermen/divers constructed reefs for the purpose of increasing fisheries resource access and harvest.  Historically, artificial reef construction was not regulated.  Most artificial reef materials consisted of “materials of opportunity” (e.g. scrap steel, automobile bodies, and boat hulls).  Artificial reef materials were deployed at locations decided upon by the individual skippers and captains.  These locations were kept secret to maintain control over harvest of fishes from each artificial reef.

Gradually, regulatory agencies such as Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Florida DEP), Florida Marine Patrol, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Coast Guard began enforcing state and federal laws (e.g. Section 10, Rivers and Harbors Act).  In Florida state waters along the Gulf Coast (within 9 nautical miles from shore), permits from the Florida DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are required for the construction of artificial reefs.  Materials must conform to federal and state guidelines listed within each permit.  In federal waters (200 nautical miles from shore), a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required for the construction of artificial reefs.  Materials guidelines must be obeyed.  Florida DEP Office of Fisheries Management and Assistance Services (now Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Bureau of Marine Fisheries Management) began administering the Florida Artificial Reef Program in the 1980’s.  Artificial reefs funded by state and federal grants and funded with public monies, should remain intact and in place for as long as possible, thus providing maximum value.

Monitoring during Deployment

Refer to the Reef Site Permitting Section for information regarding permitting and deployment requirements.

Post-deployment Monitoring

Artificial reef monitoring is considered an important component of artificial reef management in the National Artificial Reef Plan.  However, monitoring has been interpreted in different ways by different agencies and individuals.  It is a major topic of discussion in the scientific community, and there are numerous publications dealing with this section of the management plan.  A publication that is available through the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Services (IFAS) Extension and Florida Sea Grant is “Artificial Reef Monitoring in Florida Coastal Counties.”  This publication, along with “Artificial Reefs: The Florida Sea Grant Connection” can provide a link to funding and research opportunities through the University of Florida/IFAS Extension and Florida Sea Grant.


Artificial Reef Monitoring in Coastal Counties, by William Seamen of Florida Seagrant ( 2.56MB pdf)

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