These reefs comprise one-third of the total nine R.E.E.F. Louisiana projects that are set to be built by the end of the year. These projects are created in an effort to attract fish to the sites of various decommissioned oil platforms found along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.
The Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association started the R.E.E.F. project in 2019 after local anglers, political leaders, biologists, and CCA members from across Louisiana wanted to repurpose the sites of former oil platforms. The project aims to build these nearshore reefs, which range in depth from 10 to 150 feet, on areas that were identified by anglers as former fishing hotspots for favorite species like the red snapper or speckled trout.
In early April, one artificial reef is set to be built at Bay Marchand Block 3, which is located just southeast of Port Fourchon in Lafourche. The reef will be made of recycled materials and be built at a depth of 45 feet. Composed of recycled concrete structures, the reef will aim to host shallow-water fish and create a mangrove habitat. Mangroves serve to not only establish a barrier between the mainland and the ocean, but they also prevent soil erosion and provide a habitat to numerous fish, mollusk, and crustacean species.
The CEO of the Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association, David Cresson, remarked that each reef is constructed in one week, and it only takes less than a month after a project’s completion for fish to begin inhabiting the area. And while each reef may cost between $250,000 to $500,000 to complete, much of the total cost of each project is reduced through the donation of materials from the state’s old roadway projects and the donated labor and time from various construction companies.
Artificial reefs built in shallow waters can be constructed from recycled highway barriers, culverts, and other road materials, while old pieces of oil platforms, retired marine vessels, and recycled concrete are used to construct reefs in deeper waters.
One such reef will be built at a depth of 125 feet about 25 miles south of Timbalier Island in Terrebonne Parish, where it is set to attract red snapper fish. Nearby, at a location only 15 miles south of Timbalier Island, a 300-foot barge will be deployed to also attract red snapper.
According to Cresson, the Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association has invested $15 million over ten years to build over 30 artificial reefs across the state of Louisiana. “We’re doing this to replace habitat loss after old oil and gas platforms are removed. It’s two-fold, we build new habitats and maintain the platform reefs that are still there. These project ideas come from local volunteers and supporters and they should be proud of their efforts,” said Cresson. “It’s a marriage between a non-profit organization, state and federal partners, and corporate organizations for this to all come to life.”
These R.E.E.F. projects have received financial support from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Artificial Reef Trust Fund, the Building Conservation Trust, and companies like Chevron and Shell.
For many, the concept of repurposing former oil platform sites to attract species of fish that are originally native to this region is an easy idea to whole-heartedly support, as it speaks to a unique, environmentally-conscious spirit that’s often found in Southern Louisiana.
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