The Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste is planning to deploy a new artificial reef after receiving a grant in January from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Two-thousand tons of concrete material, that would have otherwise gone to a landfill, will soon make up the new artificial reef called King’s Reef.
Charles Mangio is the solid waste program manager for the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste.
He said the artificial reef will be located about four miles due west of St. Pete Beach.
This particular spot was chosen because commercial and recreational fishers wanted to see a reef that was closer to shore and more accessible for those with small boats.
Mangio said the reef will also provide fresh opportunities for anglers and divers to spot fish.
“That area does have some older reefs near it,” Mangio said, “but there hasn’t been any new activity in that area for probably 20, 30 years.”
Artificial reef programs have been active in the Tampa Bay region for decades.
Angela Collins, who is a fisheries specialist for the Florida Sea Grant program, said artificial reefs can have a positive economic impact on Florida coastal counties because of the fishers and divers they attract.
She said sometimes, artificial reefs are also created to provide habitat for fish suffering from habitat loss.
“Every scenario is different,” Collins said, “but at the same time, some structure is better than no structure.”
Ed Camp is an assistant professor at the University of Florida who studies artificial reefs.
He said he and fellow researchers hope to provide guidance in the near future to local counties, the state and federal agencies on the types of reefs that should be deployed in certain circumstances.
This is important, Camp said, because artificial reefs can serve a slew of purposes, including increasing fish populations, improving fishing conditions for anglers and filling gaps in the ecosystem when natural reefs degrade or are destroyed.
“It’s hard for a single artificial reef to do all of those things,” Camp said.
King’s Reef is set to be deployed from Clearwater’s Sand Key Park this summer.