BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — When the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in 2010, more than 100 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, greatly damaging the water’s ecosystems.
Since then, the Department of the Interior has worked with affected states to remedy the issues.
Tuesday morning, Bay County commissioners voted to accept $900,000 in grant money to continue to expand the artificial reef program.
“There’s a number of people that come from out of town to take advantage of our fishing industry here in Bay County,” Commissioner Bill Dozier said. “With that, coupled with the local fishermen that get the opportunity to go out at the leisure of their schedule, it’s just so beneficial. These artificial reefs, they just pay back in dividends.”
This next phase will grow the artificial reef program by 20 sites, including over 200 pieces of prefabricated concrete for fish to inhabit.
“We have sometimes really large reefs that mimic what we would see with the sinking of a ship,” University of Florida IFAS Bay County Extension Director Scott Jackson. “We do that and replicate that in concrete. And then we might have some smaller reefs that maybe help us with working on the food chain and increasing the number of smaller fish in the area to attract larger fish as they develop.”
Jackson said having more reefs will help spread out the concentration of fish.
“Well, we’re trying to disperse fishing pressure by giving people plenty of places to go fishing and diving so it benefits both divers and fishermen, and it also benefits our resources that we’re trying to protect and so it’s just a win-win for both,” Jackson said.
These new reefs will also replace some of the sites that were damaged by Hurricane Michael four years ago.
Jackson expects the new batch of reefs to deploy in the next year or two.