Two new artificial reefs are now in place in the Gulf of Mexico, just six miles off the coast of Port O’Connor. The nearshore reefs will create marine habitat that will attract a variety of sea creatures, which will in turn draw anglers and divers for recreational opportunities.
The project is part of Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s fundraising effort Keeping it Wild: The Campaign for Texas. Coastal Conservation Association’s (CCA) Building Conservation Trust, CCA Texas and Shell Oil Company generously contributed funds for this reef, which were leveraged with state dollars from the Texas Artificial Reef program.
“Protecting and preserving the environment is no easy feat, and no one can do it alone. That is why Shell partners and engages with organizations like Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF),” said Bruce Culpepper, President of Shell Oil Company. “The Artificial Reef Program is a prime example of how our partnership with TPWF has enabled us to find new ways to power progress together in conservation and to help make the future better now and for generations to come.”
The two adjacent reefs consist of 700 concrete pyramids, 200 of which Shell funded, that have been placed in waters 66-70 feet deep. The 2,500-pound pyramids have holes large enough for fish to swim through, with limestone embedded outside to provide marine life such as worms and other invertebrates with a hard substrate to burrow into. The structures also have an opening at the top large enough to allow any sea turtles to escape if they wander in. The structures are now placed within a 381-acre reef site, the second largest site ever permitted in Texas waters.
“These new artificial reefs have all the features needed to attract a variety of marine species,” said Dale Shively, who leads the Texas Artificial Reef Program. “The process of attracting sea life happens fairly quickly, and we expect that within six months, the reef will become quality marine habitat. We’re very grateful to the partners who have made this possible.”
Artificial reefs not only enhance fishery resources, but also fishing and diving opportunities off the Texas coast. Hundreds of thousands of anglers and divers travel offshore each year for the recreational opportunities the reefs create.
“This reef combines everything an offshore angler could want with close proximity to the iconic launches of Port O'Connor, and it is emblematic of what can be accomplished in great habitat partnerships,” said Sean Stone, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association’s Building Conservation Trust, which provides funding for conservation and restoration projects across the country. “Through this partnership effort, we are improving the nearshore marine environment in Texas waters while increasing access to the resources anglers and divers love. This is truly an exciting time in marine habitat creation.”
An interesting feature of the new reef site is that two derelict petroleum platforms are within its 381-acre footprint, making them ideal candidates for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Rigs-to-Reefs program. This program re-purposes old oil rigs, creating marine habitat as well as saving significant dollars from the cost to remove them. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are currently working with the Texas General Land Office on plans to convert the two decommissioned platforms into reefs in the future, which will further enhance the site.
Watch the concrete pyramids being deployed into the water and learn more about the Keeping It Wild program by watching this short video!