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Local News

Gulf of Mexico gets new marine habitats with $1.26 million artificial reef project

Destin, Florida – Marine life in the Gulf of Mexico now has hundreds of additional underwater habitats thanks to a $1.26 million artificial reef project funded by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Fund. This significant initiative included 133 different reef sites and the deployment of 279 total reef structures ranging from 6 to 25 feet in height. The Coastal Resources team of Destin-Fort Walton Beach in Okaloosa County’s Tourism Development Department managed the project.

Deployment of Deepest Modules

The reefs include some of the deepest modules ever deployed by Destin-Fort Walton Beach, with depths ranging from 65 to 292 feet. This ambitious effort aims to enhance the habitats for marine life, contributing positively to the ecosystem and supporting local fishing and tourism industries. Okaloosa County Board Chairman Paul Mixon highlighted the importance of the project, stating, “This is an impressive effort to enhance the habitats for marine life in the Gulf of Mexico waters. This is a great example of how we continue to work to be good stewards of the environment that we depend on for our fishing and tourism industries.”

Innovative Use of 3D-Printed Modules

A notable aspect of the project is the inclusion of 3D-printed modules, which were deployed in late February. These modules are the first of their kind in the Gulf of Mexico, representing a significant innovation in the creation of artificial reefs. The project spanned six deployment days from February to early May, involving contractors Walter Marine and 1Print, who performed the construction and deployment work.

The entire project was 100% grant-funded by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Fund, administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This funding was crucial in bringing the project to fruition and enhancing the marine environment.

Read also: Destin-Fort Walton Beach to host the annual Emerald Coast Open

Enhancing Marine Habitats and Local Economy

Destin-Fort Walton Beach Coastal Resources Manager Alex Fogg expressed pride in the project’s completion. “I am extremely proud of the work that was done to complete this extensive project,” Fogg said. “Our area of the Gulf of Mexico is lacking in natural reef structures for marine life to thrive, which is something we are working to change. Not only do artificial reefs create essential habitat for native species here in the Gulf, but they also provide ideal locations for fishermen and divers to visit.”

Benefits to Fishing and Tourism

The new reefs are expected to boost the local economy by attracting fishermen and divers, providing them with new locations to explore. This project demonstrates a successful collaboration between environmental stewardship and economic development, benefiting both marine life and human communities.

Accessing the New Reefs

For those interested in exploring the new reef structures, coordinates for these and other reefs off Destin-Fort Walton Beach can be found at destinfwb.com.

This project marks a significant step forward in enhancing the Gulf of Mexico’s marine habitats, showcasing the positive impact of strategic environmental initiatives. The collaboration between local authorities, contractors, and funding agencies highlights the potential for future projects to continue this important work.

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