Materials destined to become artificial reefs must be complex, stable and durable. They must provide a network of openings for shelter, be compatible with the marine environment, withstand the chemical forces of the ocean and stay in place.
Concrete and heavy-gauge steel are the most reliable building blocks for artificial reef construction. Petroleum rigs, bridge and highway materials, culverts and large marine vessels remain in place through tidal and storm surge movements common on the Gulf sea floor. Other large, durable and stable items, such as quarry rocks, are used to enhance reef sites.
Concrete balls and pyramids specifically designed for reefing are cost-effective structures whose nooks and crannies protect smaller fish and marine animals from predators.
Not Just Any Materials Will Do
All reefed materials must meet federal and state environmental guidelines. Federal and state permits and leases are required to properly locate and build reefs. Dumping material on the Gulf floor without proper permitting is illegal, and violators of state and federal regulations will be prosecuted.
Guidelines for Nearshore Reefing
Click the following link to learn more about guidelines for nearshore reefing (PDF, 9.5 MB).
The Gulf accounts for 80% of all shrimp harvested,
62% of all oysters harvested and more than 1.4 billion pounds
of annual seafood production.
More than 140 petroleum platforms—with more on the way—have found new purpose as marine habitat in the Texas Artificial Reef Program.
Texas boasts 66 artificial reef sites ranging from 5 to 100 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico—that’s 3,440 acres of prime fishing and diving adventure.
Seven reef sites within nine nautical miles of shore serve as accessible nearshore fishing and diving opportunities.
Red snapper, the most popular game fish in Texas Gulf waters, thrive around artificial reef sites. Scientific divers see red snapper at TPWD artificial reef sites during four of every ten visits to these locations.
With a few exceptions, the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is flat and bare except for artificial reef sites. Nearly 200 marine fish species have been seen on these complex, stable, and durable habitats among artificial reef structures.
Sixteen of 23 U.S. coastal states (or 70 percent) maintain artificial reef programs.
The Texas Clipper ship reef off South Padre Island generates more than $1 million for the local economy from anglers and $1.4–$2 million from divers. Anglers spend on average $460 per fishing trip, while divers spend upwards of $2,000 per dive.
Thirteen ships have been intentionally sunk as part of the Texas Artificial Reef Program, the largest being the USTS Texas Clipper. She’s 473 feet long—that’s 1.5 times the length of a football field.