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Artificial reefs good for marine life, economy

Like many other coastal waters off Florida, marine life around Port Canaveral will soon have a new playground. A program that uses “broken hunks of bridges to miles of concrete piping” will expand greatly, creating an artificial reef on Florida’s East Coast. The reef will offer a habitat to species that in many other regions face worsening conditions.

Florida Today writes that the newly created reef will add to already existing artificial ones in the area, bringing the total area covered to about 100 acres. The paper also writes that this is good news for other reefs in the region as the stress divers and sport fishers put on reefs will be distributed over a larger area, allowing the reef more time to replenish itself. But the motive, the paper says, is not only environmental in nature.

The program will also benefit recreational fishing in Florida, “a $6 billion state industry that supports 70,000 jobs along 1,197 miles of coastline,” according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

This is definitely good news for the region, both in economic prospects, as well as natural resources. It will also ensure that species of fish and other marine life find a refuge, which will ensure biodiversity and a better chance of survival in the long-term future. Often the sad reality is that natural resources are not deemed important if there is no monetary gain to be had through their survival. In this instance though, protection of species, as well as monetary gain for the communities involved, clearly go hand in hand.

This particular project is only one of many in Florida’s waters. According to Artificialreefs.org, there are dozens of projects currently proposed or already under development, including some in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area.

While the creation of the reefs is commendable, it should not mean that other reefs, be they natural or artificial in origin, are neglected. Waters around the Florida peninsula have been increasingly subject to runoff, from point sources such as industry and phosphate mining and non-point sources such as storm water runoff. As the speed of Florida’s population growth does not seem to be slowing, this problem is only going to get worse.

The state should decide how valuable it finds natural resources — including reefs, beaches, as well as marine life in general — and act now to preserve them. Areas such as Florida’s gulf beaches, a resource Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater depend on for economic reasons, would receive a major economic blow if such resources were lost.