The Latin translation of “circalittoral” is near the seashore (ie. circa = near and littoral = seashore). Therefore, circalittoral reefs refer to reefs that are near the seashore. Hard bottom habitat within the circalittoral zone of Alabama is extremely limited. Structures such as the jetties at Perdido Pass and the Gulf State Park Pier provide some structural complexity within this area, but the marine resources of Alabama could observe exceptional benefits by increasing the habitat value with purposely built artificial reefs. Therefore, the Marine Resources Division utilized restoration funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to conduct a much needed habitat enhancement project to increase the amount of quality habitat available to reef associated organisms in the circalittoral zone.
The circalittoral reefs are constructed of concrete and limestone discs anchored with a piling jetted 13’ into the seabed leaving the concrete/limestone structures exposed for colonization by reef associated organisms. Organisms such as bryozoans, tunicates, and encrusting algae will settle upon the concrete/limestone substrate and serve as the foundation that supports a thriving reef community. Octopus, crabs and worms will then recruit to the reefs which will support higher trophic level fishes. In time, the artificial reefs will support a productive and diverse ecosystem that produces an abundance of life and fish that anglers and ecotourists can enjoy.
The circalittoral reefs are located at three Gulf State Park Beach Access Sites (Pavilion, Romar Beach and Alabama Point). The reef structures are approximately 500’ from shore with depths as shallow as eight feet. There is a vertical clearance of six feet above the structures to allow for boats to pass over. The longitudinal boundaries of each reef is marked by a sets of poles located on the shore. The rear poles are yellow with red stripes and the front poles are yellow only. From the water, you can determine your relation to the reef by looking at the alignment of the poles. Red lights installed on each set of poles will provide a point of reference at night. However, the lights may be turned off during sea turtle nesting season.
It is anticipated that an increase in swimming activity will be observed. SCUBA divers should be aware of regulations requiring the use of a dive flag to give notice to mariners of their location and dive flags would be useful for skin divers as well. Boaters are reminded that the Code of Alabama requires vessels to maintain at least 100’ clearance from dive flags and to be mindful of the increased presence of swimming activity near the reefs.
The reef sites are located at: