DMR Restoring Hurricane Damaged Fishing Reefs

The Department of Marine Resources is in the process of restoring the artificial fishing reefs destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"This area right here, 30 miles. It's a great reef," said charter boat captain Tom Becker, who whole heartedly supports the DMR's five year plan to restore damaged reefs.

Those artificial, underwater habitats become havens for fish and hot spots for offshore fishermen.

"They work fantastic. I know when I first got in the business 23 years ago, we'd fish off some of these reefs and we'd catch all kinds of fish off. They've been great all through the years," said Becker.

Some odd looking limestone pyramids are the latest building blocks for offshore reef restoration. The DMR purchased 240 of the heavy structures.

"Florida limestone pyramids. And these pyramids provide excellent habitat. They're eight foot tall, pyramid shaped and 12 foot at the base," said Kerwin Cuevas, who helps oversee reef restoration for the DMR.

The pyramids weigh several tons, making them and the reefs they create, more stable during storms.

"These were deployed on the offshore reefs. F-H 1. Fish haven one, fish haven two and fish haven thirteen. We deployed on those reefs, we started on these because they're the most popular reefs," said Cuevas.

It's not just offshore fishermen who will benefit from the ongoing reef restoration project. The DMR is also restoring nearshore reefs, which should benefit the wade and pier fishermen as well.

New signs will soon mark the nearshore reef locations.

"Some of them were deployed around piers that our shore fishermen can use. Some of them were put around our deep water poles where the wade fishermen can utilize," says Cuevas.

Crushed concrete dumped near the foot of Kelly Avenue last fall is one example of that nearshore enhancement.

So far, the DMR has restored more than 20 percent of the reefs damaged by Katrina. Federal funds are paying for most of the reef restoration work. It's part of a $37 million emergency disaster recovery grant issued through National Marine Fisheries.