Bay Co. officials partner on project to deploy more artificial reefs

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Leaders in Bay County have been hard at work at the Port of Panama City, preparing for the deployment of more artificial reefs.

On Tuesday, the port was in the process of loading two industrial spools onto a barge that was donated by Oceaneering.

Officials said the spools will be used as artificial reefs because the material is ideal and will attract barnacles and fish within just a few months.

“A lot of the area that’s out there [in the Gulf of Mexico] is sandy bottom, and so when we put down hard structures like the metal reels that we have or concrete, then it just becomes another additional habitat where marine creatures can thrive,” Scott Jackson, the Bay County Extension Director for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said.

Bay County District 3 Commissioner Bill Dozier said it will also enhance the marine environment for diving and fishing.

“This time next year, I can envision fishermen being able to go out and catch snapper on it, possibly grouper, and so they’re gonna produce some great attractive sites,” Dozier said.

Leaders said the project has been a long time coming, and that it’s nice to see the end result of their hard work.

“It makes me feel really good,” Jackson said. “I think what makes me feel best is the fact that we have so many different partners and so many different volunteers and organizations that are helping out with this project.”

The partners of the project include the Port of Panama City, Oceaneering, Bay County and the Tourism Development Council.

“This project for Bay County means that we’re going to continue to add to the reef program, boosting the fishing industry, boosting the diving and the tourism industry, and for locals,” Dozier said. “Local people that live here year-round are gonna be able to come out and enjoy this anytime they want to.”

They plan to deploy the artificial reefs 12 nautical miles off-shore and 100 feet underwater on Wednesday.

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