Okaloosa County’s newest artificial reef
FORT WALTON BEACH – Okaloosa County man-made reef system got a little bigger recently with the addition of 26 concrete and limestone structures in one of the county’s first man-made public-private buildings reef projects.
The final reef site will be known as Starborough Winery Reef, named after the New Zealand-based wine company that donated a 16-tonne, 15-foot-tall “super reef”. The three-sided structure was built by Orange Beach, Alabama-based company Reefmaker and is the largest artificial reef made in the United States.
To accompany the donated “super reef”, 25 additional 8-foot-tall reef structures, similar in shape and style, were purchased by Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County’s Tourism Development Department.
Using a ship-mounted crane, a Reefmaker crew took about two hours Tuesday morning to lower the 26 structures to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The total reef field is approximately 200 feet by 100 feet. It is located approximately 5.75 nautical miles southwest of Destin at a depth of 68 feet.
Another “Super Reef” donated by Starborough Winery was also deployed the same day off the coast of Walton County.
Alex Fogg, coastal resources manager at Destin-Fort Walton Beach, was among a group of divers who descended on the reef to remove ropes and inspect the location of structures.
“We had passing fish that appeared,” Fogg said. “I would say in about six months we’ll start to see some growth.”
Fogg said the use of limestone in the reef encourages the growth of small marine life, such as soft coral and sponges. This development will first attract smaller fish like blennies, then larger fish like amberjack and mackerel, and eventually more prized species like grouper and snapper.
The Starborough Winery Reef was Okaloosa County‘s 400th artificial reef.
“It’s a great site,” Fogg said. “It has a lot of complexity and there will be a lot to see once it matures. It’s a great example of how great things can come from working together.”
“This is just the latest partnership in our ongoing commitment to protect and restore our oceans,” said Courtney O’Brien, senior director of marketing at E.&. J. Gallo Winery, the parent company of Starborough. “Coral reefs are an extremely important part of our ecosystem and we are honored to partner with Reefmaker to make a real impact.”
As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting ocean conservation, Starborough will dedicate its social media feed to educating and engaging consumers to participate in ocean conservation efforts throughout June, in honor of National Month. of the ocean.
Starborough has pledged to donate and roll out another reef if the brand’s Instagram channel reaches 100,000 engagements (likes, comments, shares and new followers),
Since 2020, Starborough has partnered with Oceana, the world’s largest international ocean conservation organization. In August, Starborough will donate $1 from every bottle of wine sold, up to $50,000, to Oceana to continue supporting their efforts to protect ocean habitats.
The Starborough Winery Reef is located at 30° 21.048 degrees North and 86° 36.874 degrees West.
For more information on the Okaloosa County Reef System, visit Artificial reefs Destin-Fort Walton Beach.