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Major Fishing Reefs Intact After Hurricane Ivan

November 04, 2004

Alabama currently has the largest artificial reef program in the United States. Many saltwater anglers are curious about the effects that Hurricane Ivan may have had on those artificial reefs. A random survey by the Alabama Marine Resources Division shows that offshore fishing reefs built using public funds are in good shape.

Within two weeks of the hurricane, three Marine Resources crews made a random survey of the reefs. A grid was laid out and surveys were done of shallow water reefs, medium water reefs and deep water reefs. “We found everything we looked for and it looked good,” said Marine Resources Biologist Jim Duffy. “We were worried about some of the shallow water reefs, but even those appear intact.” Duffy said all the public reefs are built from very heavy materials, such as concrete, barges, military tanks and heavy-gauge steel.

Duffy said that fishing has reportedly been very good since the storm. “We hear from the local fishermen that fishing is great, so that is another indicator that our artificial reefs are still in place.”

Fishermen are allowed to apply for permits from the Marine Resources Division to build their own reefs. Privately constructed reefs are often made out of lighter materials and some of those were more affected by Ivan. “We’ve heard reports that many of these reefs made out of lighter materials have been moved around or buried completely,” Duffy said.

Facts about Alabama’s Artificial Reefs

  • The natural bottom offshore of Alabama is predominately flat sand bottom. This bottom type attracts few fish that are either commercially or recreationally valuable.
  • If vertical relief is created on this bottom, many reef fish such as snappers and groupers will be attracted. In fact, artificial reefs can be created that over time will appear as natural reefs with similar communities of encrusting organisms and bait fish.
  • As various encrusting organisms such as corals and sponges cover the artificial reef material, small animals take up residence. As these small animals become abundant larger animals are attracted and feed upon these. Yet larger fish are attracted to these and so on until a complete reef food web is created. At that point the artificial reef functions as a natural reef.
  • Alabama's artificial reef building program started in 1953 when the Orange Beach Charter Boat Association asked for the authority to place 250 car bodies off Baldwin County, Alabama. This proved to be very successful and in the years since, many different types of materials have been placed offshore of Alabama.

More information on Alabama’s artificial reef program can be found on the Department of Conservation’s web site at www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/saltwater/where/artificial-reefs

 

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