A new artificial reef is now in place in the waters off Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
The former research vessel R/V MANTA was deliberately sunk approximately 16 nautical miles (30km) offshore on January 15th, 2023.
According to the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department:
“This expansion supports a long-term vision of continuing to grow as a sought-after destination for those seeking premier fishing and diving opportunities.”
The MANTA’s sister ship, R/V DOLPHIN, is also set to be sunk in the area in the coming weeks.
Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners Chairman Trey Goodwin said:
“This is an exciting new addition to our growing artificial reef system, and we are extremely proud of the work the Coastal Resource team has done with this effort. Not only will it offer additional fishing and diving opportunities, but it will continue to sustain vital ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico.”
R/V MANTA was sunk in approximately 110 feet (33.5m) of water and features a statue of Jesus known as the “Christ of the Gulf,” paying homage to the series of other statues throughout the world.
The statue is placed on the top deck at a depth of about 50 feet (15m) making it accessible to even beginner divers.
“Christ of the Gulf” was created by Glenn Camplejohn who is part of the Deepwater Mafia, a Christian dive club from Mississippi that dives in the area regularly.
Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg said:
“The deployment of the R/V MANTA and R/V DOLPHIN in the coming weeks, are not only significant in terms of the recreational opportunities they present, but they also provide habitat for vital species of fish that inhabit our region. We are now home to more than 400 artificial reefs, and it’s been remarkable to see how our efforts are not only contributing to valuable experiences out on the water, but also to the protection of these delicate environments. The addition of both vessels marks the start of what we hope to be a celebratory year of even more impactful costal efforts ahead.”