Florida State wildlife officials are drawing up a plan to regulate the future construction of artificial reefs and determine their impact on the environment and fish populations.
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is expected to vote next month on an artificial reef strategic plan. The plan is intended to find ways to build more reefs, conduct research on their impact and do a better job of regulating their construction.
The 15-member advisory board consists of county artificial reef officials, charter captains, environmentalists and divers – all whom help to draft the initial plan, but which has been denounced by environmentalists.
There have been more than 2,000 artificial reefs built from everything from wrecked ships, concrete pilings and even old refrigerators. These artifical reefs lie near Florida’s coast and are popular with fishermen. Proponents say they provide places for algae and coral to grow and generate currents that draw in plankton, creating new habitats for fish to multiply.
Environmentalists counter by saying artificial reefs may be harming dwindling populations of snapper, grouper and other fish because of their popularity with anglers.
"Do they only attract fish so that fishermen can take more fish?" asked David White, southeast regional director of the Ocean Conservancy. "If they’re just giant fish attractors, they’re just leading to greater depletion of fish."
The Ocean Conservancy, which had a representative on the advisory board, now denounces the plan. The conservancy is upset that the fish and wildlife commission, a seven-member board appointed by the governor, removed various conservation measures.