DMR plants artificial reef near Ocean Springs community pier

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS  (WLOX) -  Good news for fishermen who use the Ocean Springs community pier.

The long term fishing forecast for that public facility just got better.

A new artificial reef will soon be attracting fish.

Heavy equipment atop a barge helps spread the reef material.  Some 300 cubic yards of crushed limestone will start a biological process underwater.

Tiny organisms will attach to the hard stones, followed by larger marine creatures and finally, fish.

"Fish species such as spotted sea trout, red drum, flounder, ground mullet. They utilize these reefs as habitat. So, our fishermen of Mississippi can fish on these reefs and get these species they love to eat and love to catch," said Kerwin Cuevas, who directs the artificial reef program for the Department of Marine Resources.

This newest reef is among 54 near shore and 14 offshore artificial reefs created or enhanced by the Department of Marine Resources.

Federal money from the post-Katrina emergency disaster bill is helping pay for such projects.

"And we set some of that money aside and we've been redeveloping our inshore and offshore reefs. Hurricane Katrina destroyed about 90 percent of the inshore and offshore reefs. And this is part of that plan to redevelop those reefs," said the DMR's Dale Diaz.

State representative Hank Zuber worked with DMR to secure tidelands money which also supports such projects.

He says artificial reefs represent future opportunities for family time.

"I think it's important because it will allow families to come to the community pier and spend quality time together fishing and catching fish. We had a reef at the original community pier and it was very productive. And this one will be very productive," said the representative from Ocean Springs.

It's productive for fishermen and the state's economy. A study several years ago estimated the annual economic impact of Mississippi's near shore and offshore reefs at some $78,000,000.

The DMR works in partnership with "Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks" to develop and maintain the artificial reefs.

More than 60 percent of the reefs destroyed by Katrina have now been rebuilt.

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