DMR artificial reef program showing success

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Associated Press

Posted on November 16, 2011 at 9:36 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 16 at 9:36 AM

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Fishermen love them, but Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped them out.

Artificial reefs were devastated by the powerful storm in 2005. But in the years since Katrina, slowly but surely the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has been restoring the reefs.

Ironically, some of the material used to restore the reefs came from post-Katrina rubble.

For example, concrete culverts and pieces of the old fishing bridge in Biloxi Bay were used to re-build the artificial reefs.

The man in charge of the artificial reef program gave the state Commission on Marine Resources a progress report on Tuesday.

"We have a total of 67 inshore reefs which covers state line to state line," said Kerwin Cuevas.

Cuevas is the DMR employee who's helped plan and oversee all the reef restoration.

Crushed concrete and limestone was deployed near most public piers along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"Since the hurricane, to current, we've had 141 deployments in all three coastal counties, Harrison, Hancock and Jackson of course. Which totaled 24,000 cubic feet of crushed concrete or limestone," he told commissioners.

Offshore reefs are built with much larger material. Concrete culverts, pre-made concrete reef forms and derelict vessels are among the materials deployed in deep water: 38 deployments since the storm.

"One barge load is one deployment, usually around 400 tons per deployment. And these culverts range from three to five foot in diameter, four to eight foot in length. We're talking substantial culverts," said Cuevas.

Nearshore and offshore fishermen love the reefs for one simple reason: they attract fish.

"Basically, we don't have any bottoms out there that attract fish. And fish like structure. So, if you have no structure, you have no fish. The reefs attract bait fish and bait fish attract the predators, which is what we catch," said F.J. Eicke, with the Coastal Conservation Association.

Studies show that fish hang around those reefs for a long time.

"Not only attracts fish and other species, but maintains them. Gives them a place to basically live and raise a family if you will. And we have evidence that with red snapper at least with some of these offshore reefs that these fish are staying there," said DMR Executive Director Bill Walker.

"As of today, our reefs are rebuilt over 100 percent, offshore and inshore, 100 percent pre-Katrina because of those funds," said Cuevas.

Funding for restoring the artificial reefs came from federal emergency post-Katrina money.

DMR also works with fishing and conservation groups on reef projects. Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks and the Coastal Conservation Association have both been involved in such projects.

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Information from: WLOX-TV, http://www.wlox.com

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