Artificial Reefs make fabulous habitat for thousands of creatures in the waters of the Florida Keys

Artificial reefs aren’t just sunken ship. Any material that’s submerged grows into a reef after just a little while in the water. I’ve seen many different structures while diving in the waters of the Florida keys. And all of them are boiling over with marine life.

Artificial reefs are habitat for a wide variety of marine plant and animal life. The diversity of the marine world is topped only by the diversity of plant and animal life in the rain forest.

These man made habitat give home to many types of hard and soft corals, large schools of fish, algae, invertebrates, anemones, sponges , crabs, lobster , shrimp and many other types of marine animal and plant life. These artificial habitat are used by these creatures for feeding, breeding, sleeping and protection from predators. Many are a major draw for tourist who come to the Florida Keys just to dive on them.
The pressure that’s putting stress on our living coral reefs gives artificial reefs even more importance. I found a non-profit group that’s trying to take some of the stress off our coral reefs by building more hard bottom structure for the fish and other marine life. They seem to have an answer to rebuilding destroyed coral reefs. They’ve come up with what they call the “reef ball.” It’s made of concrete and it’s ph is similar to that of saltwater. It’s designed to mimic the natural reef in appearance and function. You can check this new reef building idea out here.

Artificial reef Almost anything you put onto the ocean floor will become an artificial reef. Of course, the authorities frown on individuals sinking what they call habitats, and it’s now illegal to do this. They would have us believe it has a negative effect on the marine environment. They’ll have interviews on the radio where they’ll state that they think it changes the migration pattern of some marine life by putting these habitat in their migration path. Personally I believe this to be a bunch of bull.

All the big stink the National Marine Sanctuary is making about artificial habitats is itself artificial. Many of them were placed ten to fifteen years ago by the lobster divers. I believe anything that will help to build the fish and lobster stock in the Florida Keys should be promoted.

Ship artificial reef

A good example of how quick and how healthy “habitats” grow is the stone crab trap. My friend Becky and I throw stone crab traps out each year. We get to see first hand how fast these square black plastic traps along with the crab line transforms into an artificial reef . The traps are fished each year from October 15 to May 15. The first pull is a week after the traps were thrown into the water. On that pull there’s already a layer of silt attached to the top of the trap. After two weeks it’s twice as thick and algae eating snails are already attached to the trap. There’s more than stone crabs using the traps as habitat, fish of many varieties, lobster, sea slugs, snails and other species of crabs. As the year progresses many types of sponges, crabs, invertebrate, as well as many types of marine plants attach themselves to the trap and trap line. Within two to three months each trap is it’s own thriving eco system.

Stone crabs and trap Month after month new varieties of marine life has attached themselves to the stone crab traps. When May comes around it’s amazing how heavy the traps have become because of all the marine plant and animal life on this little square artificial reef.

When the traps are taken from the water at the end of the season, it’s sad to think of all the creatures that will die that are living on the traps. Even before you get back to the dock, it’s a smelly boat from all the dead creatures. It’s funny, Becky and I work for hours trying to rescue any small crab or snail that came off the traps onto the deck of the boat. It seems every time we turn around we spot another one or two leaving the trap where they were hiding in all the plant growth covering the trap.

stone crab traps

Because of mans actions such as the runoff from the government subsidized “Big Sugar” industry to the north of the Florida Keys, lots of the living coral reef on both sides of the Keys is dead. Large areas are now void of marine plant and animal life. Lots of it is covered with a thick layer of algae. It looks horrible. Many of the fish have left. When you discover an artificial habitat or artificial reef , you’ll see all kinds of activity and marine life.

In the end it’s obvious to anyone who dives. Artificial reefs provide for an increased hardbottom habitat. They can be placed to protect existing coral reefs and shoreline by increasing the available hardbottom. They provide obstacles to boats and nets. They provide for great snorkeling, diving and fishing. They can also help stabilize shorelines that are damaged by breaking wave action. They’re a great asset to us here in the Florida Keys.



Return from Artificial Reefs to Diving and Snorkeling

Return from Artificial Reefs to N The Florida Keys