Bay County moves forward with phase II of artificial reef project

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — On Tuesday, Bay County Commissioners approved for an additional 205 artificial reefs to be placed in the Gulf of Mexico off of the St. Andrew Bay Pass. 

The reefs are a part of a larger project with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help increase fish population in the area, which started in 2015.

For local industry professionals like divers and fishermen, the additional reefs come as good news, since their jobs depend on a healthy habitat under the water’s surface.

“We do have an abundance of fish still out there which is good,” said Brian Ray Robinson, the general manager of Diver’s Den. “The storms affected some of the bridge spans and shipwrecks that we have but we’re still able to dive those.”

He said when it comes to having even more habitats for marine life to thrive, he’s all for it.

“Surely, it’s going to do nothing but help,” he said.

The reefs will be placed 12 to 14 nautical miles west of the St. Andrew Bay Pass, constructed and dropped by Walter Marine Inc. in Orange Beach, Alabama. Walter Marine currently has a contract with the City of Mexico Beach, and Bay County will be piggybacking off of that contract to secure the additional reefs for this project.

It’s all funded through a more than $900 thousand grant from the FWC that must be spent by the end of this year. 

“The more reefs we can put in, the better off we are,” said Bay County Commissioner Bill Dozier. “It gives the fish a location to thrive.”

Another local industry reaping the benefits of the new reefs is fishing.

“It helps us out a lot as fishing captains because it gives us another place to fish,” said Capt. Jonathan McGowan of “Reel Fun Charters.” He said the added reefs are good for business.

“It actually adds to the advertising saying we have more artificial reefs going into our location,” he said. “[There are] more places to fish, you won’t have to fight with other captains trying to fish on the same stuff.”

As of now, there’s no time frame in place yet for when the new reefs will be placed in their permitted spots.

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