More Americans fish than play golf and tennis combined and the state of Florida is ranked number one in total expenditures by anglers. Sport fishing in Florida generates over $6 billion dollars and the use of artificial reefs provides a source of biological replenishment to local populations of marine vertebrates and invertebrates. These reefs provide shelter for animals and promote aquaculture. Artificial reefs not only enhance fishery resources but also fishing and diving opportunities. At present Florida has over 2,700 artificial reefs off the 34 counties that make up its coastline.
The Sebastian Inlet Sport Fishing Association, or SISA, has a goal of deploying 10 new artificial reefs off Sebastian Inlet over the next 10 years. These reefs will help ensure a sustainable future for sport fishing in east central Florida.
Each new reef deployed must go through a lengthy permitting process which can take 12 to 18 months and the price tag is roughly $60,000. One crucial part of the permit is the submission of a sonar map of the ocean floor in the area of the potential reef site. This type of mapping can cost upwards of $40,000. In an effort to reduce the expense of reef deployment, SISA utilizes FL Tech’s Dr. George Maul’s Department of Marine and Environmental Systems students aboard the 85’ research vessel, Thunderforce. As part of their required classes, FL Tech students spend four days at sea conducting research so this arrangement is a win-win for all.
After deploying the 4 foot sonar scanner, shaped like a small torpedo and towed behind the ship, data is collected via a computer program. Nikki Hoier, SISA’s educational director, monitors the screen images looking for areas of interest on the ocean floor. The entire scanning process takes about 4 hours and even though the seas pick up in the afternoon, enough data is collected for the permit application.
According to Nikki, SISA’s long term goals focus on education and conservation and working with FL Tech is the perfect opportunity to work with the scientists of tomorrow. Everyone can contribute no matter how big their gesture or opportunity. Find out more about the Sebastian Inlet Sport Fishing Association’s Artificial Reef program here.