The Alabama Marine Resources Division (ARMD) works diligently to enhance fishing opportunities in the Gulf. Here is an update on some of the work the division is doing on behalf of the marine resources and coastal fishermen.
Offshore Reef Program
* 25-foot pyramids – 38 of these have been placed to create new habitat. These reefs are placed in tandem or added to other previously reefed structures to mimic a large vessel reef and to provide excellent habitat for amberjack and vermillion snapper.
* 8- foot pyramids – 150 of these have been placed in 57 clusters to create additional reef units.
* Three barge loads of concrete pipe, culvert material and other crushed concrete were placed on old reef sites to enhance them and bring them back as excellent habitat. A few new reefs were also created with this material.
* In conjunction with Fieldwood Energy, AMRD reefed-in-place Rig MP255 approximately 57 miles south of Dauphin Island. This program allows rigs that have provided excellent habitat in the past to continue to provide that habitat. This will be great for amberjack and pelagic species such as tuna. Watch a video on the Rigs to Reefs program
Vernon Minton Reef Zones
* In cooperation with the Coastal Conservation Association, AMRD placed 125 Eco Reefs within 3 miles of the beach in Baldwin County. These will provide additional recreational opportunities and juvenile fish habitat within range of smaller vessels.
Inshore Reef Program
* Bids on building four new inshore reefs in Mobile Bay and refurbishing 10 other reefs have been let by AMRD. We expect this work to begin in the fall.
Offshore Reefs in 6 to 9-mile Zone
* In 2014, ARMD submitted an application in to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to establish 87 square miles of artificial reef zones between 6 to 9 miles offshore. After the application was submitted, the USACE implemented a new requirement that the proposed reef area has to be surveyed for possible cultural resources.
* Surveying for cultural resources requires the use of expensive marine archaeological remote sensing technology. Due to the high cost of the archaeological survey and the time required to conduct the work, AMRD reduced the area from 87 square miles to approximately 30 square miles. Seven large areas off both Mobile and Baldwin counties have been identified and AMRD has contracted with a company to conduct the surveying.
* In addition to the archaeological surveys, NOAA Fisheries must evaluate the project’s potential to affect threatened and endangered species. This consultation requires a detailed evaluation and the process takes approximately 1 year. AMRD began this process with NOAA in 2015, so they anticipate receiving approval from NOAA Fisheries this fall.
* On a positive note, AMRD has already obtained the funding to construct up to 600 artificial reefs in these new areas as well as provide material for juvenile fish habitat. AMRD is ready to bid the work and begin construction as soon as they receive the Corps of Engineers permit. AMRD is very excited about the future possibilities, they just have to work through the federal agency requirements to receive the permit. It will all be worth the wait!
Looking to 2017
* More reef-building activity is planned for 2017. This work will be funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
All of the reefing activities are part of the Alabama Artificial Reef Plan developed by AMRD with the assistance of the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the Coastal Conservation Association. We look forward providing you future updates on these activities. The coordinates for the reefs constructed in 2016 will be made public later this year.