The Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has been actively enhancing local marine habitats and dive opportunities through a long-standing Artificial Reef Program. This program has provided many benefits to both marine life and the recreational dive industry by providing new food, shelter and spawning sites that attract hundreds of species of fish and the divers who enjoy seeing them.
Since 1991, the Palm Beach County Reef Research Team has been conducting detailed censuses of the marine life that gradually colonize these structures. Now affiliated with the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society, this group of volunteer divers has become highly proficient in fish and invertebrate identification, and have conducted year-round surveys of select sites over many years.
The data collected are important to understanding the effects of reef-enhancement programs on local fish populations. In the case of Palm Beach County, dozens of new dive sites have been developed where none existed before. The Team’s data have shown that marine life is very quickly attracted to the new structures, and over time, may become as diverse as on any of the local natural reefs. A great example of the program’s success are the massive assemblages of goliath grouper that now annually meet at the local shipwreck sites, which are products of ERM’s Artificial Reef Program.
If you would like to become a PBC Reef Team Member, visit them online at www.pbcreefteam.com/join/join.htm or for more information on the Palm Beach County Reef Research Team, please visit their website.
Partial funding for the Reef Team’s activities is provided by a grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.