Florida reefs are rebuilding due to artificial reef program; enhanced education and protection needed to survive

I’ve been swimming at the same beach for the last 33 years, since I was 3-years old. Growing up, my parents would take every opportunity they could to head south out of New England to the Atlantic Ocean, destined for Singer Island, Florida.

Recently, while just knee deep in the water at my childhood beach, I saw for the first time a nearly foot-long pufferfish. Three months ago, while swimming less than 10-yards offshore, I got to chase five squid as they tried racing away from me leaving puffs of ink between me and them.

The waters are teeming with colorful reef fish, corals and soldier-like barracuda protecting their newly acquired territory.
The sandy bottom that was once home to the occasional starfish, conch and out of place barracuda or migratory fish, is now showing signs of a thriving reef ecosystem.

This new aquatic life that has taken hold at my beach is the result of an artificial reef program.

Last summer, contractors working with the Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management dropped rock boulders in Singer Island as part of a $1.3 million artificial reef program that, when complete, will have 9,700 tons of limestone boulders covering 11.5 acres area of new reef.

Along with this new reef come threats to the new underwater inhabitants. Just as got excited to snorkel with my new friends, I watched other amazed snorkelers as they stood on the new reef and plunged down to get a closet look only to find plastic bags and other human trash growing alongside the new reef ecosystem.

This experience left me both excited and dismayed that it doesn’t take long for humans to begin destroying life as it begins to take hold.
Our oceans are in trouble and this new reef gives me hope that Florida reefs can be rebuilt. However, it requires education and protection to make sure it can survive human use.

— Annie Reisewitz
Oct. 29, 2010