Just as Broward County's beaches attract tourists, the ocean environment draws diving and fishing enthusiasts from all over the world and Broward is home to part of the only coral reef in the continental United States. The reefs extend the entire length of the County and are separated into three distinct north-south tracts (inner, middle, and outer). These reef tracts range in depth from 15 feet on the inner reef tract to 90 feet on the outer tract.
Reef Monitoring Program
There are 25 permanent research sites located offshore of Broward's 23 miles of coastline and these sites have been monitored periodically since the 1980s, and continuously since 1997. At each monitoring site, the numbers and types of corals and sponges are recorded to compare differences in between sites and over time. Numerous one square-meter areas of reef are photographed and studied to monitor changes in the reef environment, and fish counts are carried out to determine the number and types of fishes found at each of the study sites.
In addition, sediment collections are sampled at each of the sites to determine the amount and grain size sediments that settle onto the reef. The results of this biological monitoring not only provide a time series record of Broward County's reef system, but also assist in the identification of factors which may damage organisms or reduce the populations of corals and sponges on the reef.
Artificial Reef Program
Since 1982, the Broward County has created over 112 artificial reefs off our shores. The reefs, which are designed to create a new stable substrate, are made from a variety of materials including ships, barges, oil rigs, limestone rock, concrete culverts, engineered concrete artificial reef modules, and other environmentally suitable artificial reef materials. These materials are placed at various depths where they quickly become habitat for a large number of marine organisms. Through the artificial reef program, we are not only creating additional habitat for various marine organisms and fish, but are also protecting the reefs as boat anchors and scuba divers can cause physical damage to natural reefs by breaking coral or "uprooting" other attached marine animals. This will benefit both our environment and our economy for years to come. Tax deductible donations of material, services, and transportation costs have been the keys to the success of the Artificial Reef Program and donations are always welcome.
Tire Reef Removal Project
When creating an artificial reef, it is important to understand how the materials will act over time in the ocean. Ships, concrete, and limestone boulders are materials that have been used locally and worldwide and have been very successful in creating reefs while tires are an example of material that may not be suitable for use as an artificial reef. Broward County is working with State and Federal agencies to remove a failed artificial reef constructed wholly of tires.
Learn more about the Tire Removal Project
Diving on an Artificial Reef
Many scuba divers have found artificial reefs to be beautiful and exciting dives. The artificial reefs in Broward County are diverse in type, depth, and level of diving difficulty. You can follow these guidelines to help make your diving on Broward's artificial reefs a safe and enjoyable experience:
· Never dive alone; always have a dive buddy with you.
· At a minimum, you should be Wreck Diver SCUBA Certified. This certification is available through most dive facilities in Broward County.
· Always assess the weather conditions before leaving the dock and again at the wreck site. Once on the site, you and your dive buddy can determine if the wave height, current, and/or visibility will allow for a safe dive.
· When diving on an artificial reef, you should always leave someone on board the boat that can operate the boat in an emergency. This person should maintain a watch for divers surfacing downstream of the artificial reef.
· Be aware of the hazards of fishing line and other debris that may snag a diver while on an artificial reef. Each diver should carry a knife and/or wire cutters to avoid entanglement.
· It is not recommended that you go inside any wreck. The most colorful and beautiful corals, sponges, and fish are on the outside of the wreck.
· Pre-plan your dive and stay with that plan to avoid trouble.
· Finally, only dive within your capability.
Fishing on an Artificial Reef
Many different types of fish can be caught over or near artificial reefs. Reefs deeper than 200 feet are especially productive for large open-water predators. Amberjack, strong fighting fish that can weigh over 100 pounds, are one of the most common reef residents. These fish school over the artificial reefs from January to July, with May being the peak month.
Other species of wreck dwellers are black, gag, warsaw, and snowy groupers. Giant goliath grouper also make many of the wrecks their home. Additionally, many species, including sailfish, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, barracuda, mutton snapper, and cobia appear to use the artificial reefs as feeding areas and can be caught in abundance many hundreds of yards from the artificial reef.
Anglers should be aware that many fish are protected by state law. For current regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
For more information on Broward County's reefs, email Dr. Kenneth Banks or call 954-519-1207.
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