BCARA sinks 432-ton barge 30 miles off Panama City for artificial reef

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The Bay County Artificial Reef Association (BCARA) sunk a 100-foot barge as an artificial reef off the shores of Panama City, Wednesday afternoon.

BCARA President, Clayton Syfrett, said the 432-ton barge will create an artificial reef that will help attract new sea-life to the area.

"It'll be a dive site, fishing site -- it'll last for decades, people will be able to come from all the country and the world to see this," he said.

Syfrett said BCARA is made up of dozens of local divers and fisherman that hope to replenish underwater ecosystems.
"We wanted to be able to help make spots and get the word out that people can help by helping make places for new fisheries," he said.

Several Bay County Commissioners, like Griff Griffitts, share the same goal.

Which Griffitts said inspired the county to fund money toward the artificial reef projects.
"A platform that me and several other commissioners ran on was preserving the Gulf, while at the same time producing artificial reefs for our locals, and our fisherman and our divers," he said.

Within hours of sinking the barge, baitfish will accumulate around the barge, which will eventually attract more reef fish.

"Tuna, wahoo, king mackerel -- it'll just be something that is relatively unheard of -- it's one of the largest artificial reefs that's probably been deployed in decades around here," Syfrett said.

But the artificial reef, which will be 30 miles off-shore, is not just a benefit to divers and fisherman.

"Real estate, the dive centers, the commercial fisherman, the restaurants, the tackle centers -- everyone in Bay County is benefited by recreational and commercial fisherman fishing -- and this industry is benefited by what we're doing," Syfrett said.

It is estimated to take up to three to five years for the artificial reef to reach a level of maximum production for sea-life.

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