A thriving artificial coral reef is big business
An artificial reef - whether constructed of steel wreckage or concrete, Pacific or Atlantic - increases the abundance of reef life. Photo by Doug Anderson
Researchers collected data on the money generated by artificial reefs in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties in 2009. These six counties spent a few hundred thousand dollars on artificial reefs in 2009 but generated over $253 million from them.By fostering fish populations, artificial reefs benefit local communities via recreational and charter fishing, diving, and aiding scientific research. Flounders, hogfish, snappers, groupers, and their smaller prey fish thrive in these habitats.
On average, 5,600 southwest Florida residents use artificial reefs every day. These reefs also support over 2,500 full and part time jobs.
Public support for artificial reef funding was impressive: 83 to 95 percent of reef users were in favor, even if it meant increases to reef-related recreational fees. Even amongst non-reef users, the numbers were still favorable: 61 to 71 percent supported the financing of an Artificial Reef Trust Fund.
The Sea Grant study was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the West Coast Inland Navigation District and the participating counties
Let's hope studies like this encourage more investment in coral reef restoration projects. Progress usually follows where the money is, and there is big business in artificial coral reefs.