TPWD to Deploy Materials for New Artificial Reef Site in Sabine

TPWD to Deploy Materials for New Artificial Reef Site in Sabine

SEA RIM STATE PARK — Texas Parks and Wildlife’s (TPWD) Artificial Reef Program, in partnership with the nonprofit organization Friends of Sabine Reef, is adding a fourth artificial reef site to the Sabine Pass area on June 27 and June 28.

This new 20-acre reef, named HI-54 Shallow, is approximately eight miles from the Sabine Pass jetty and 1.7 miles from the coastline of Sea Rim State Park. HI-54 Shallow will consist of artificial materials that will be deployed to help create a new artificial reef habitat for aquatic life as well as enhance fishing opportunities for saltwater anglers and divers along the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico’s sea floor is mostly comprised of a vast, featureless plain of mud and sand, and lacks natural reefs or structures for marine animals and plants to settle upon. That’s where artificial reefs come into play. Artificial reefs are made up of structures and/or materials that have been placed to help support a vast array of natural reef-like communities.

The intentional deployment of artificial materials along the Texas Coast has occurred since the 1950s. However, it was not until the mid-1970s that materials were intentionally placed on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico to enhance and create marine habitats.

In 1975 and 1976, 12 obsolete World War II Liberty Ships were cleaned and intentionally “reefed” off Texas by the Texas Coastal and Marine Council. In 1989, the Texas Legislature passed the 1989 Artificial Reef Act, which provided guidance for planning and developing artificial reefs. A year later in 1990, TPWD’s Artificial Reef Program was officially established.

The Artificial Reef Program focuses its deployment efforts on three types of materials:

1)    Decommissioned drilling rigs in the Rigs-to-Reefs Program.

2)    Highway bridge materials and other sources of concrete and heavy-gauge steel in the Nearshore Reefing Program.

3)    Large marine vessels in the Ships-to-Reefs Program.

All materials must meet federal and state guidelines for environmental safety and be free of contaminants.

Artificial reefs have historically been placed in aquatic environments: coastal, marine and freshwater to enhance the receiving ecosystems. These reefs boast numerous benefits, including:

  • Improving recruitment and spawning potential of reef associated species
  • Creating fishing and scuba diving opportunities for the public
  • Facilitating access and use by Texas recreational and commercial anglers
  • Potentially serving as conservation and mitigation tools by alleviating fishing and diving pressure on natural reefs
  • Reducing fishing efforts by attracting dispersed fishes
  • Producing new fish biomass

All of TPWD’s established reef sites are known to attract a variety of fish species, including red snapper, cobia, mackerel and sharks, that live within the reefs to feed and breed. HI-54 Shallow is located in shallow water (21 feet deep), and will also attract juvenile fish as well as various coastal fish species, such as spotted seatrout and red drum.

With a generous monetary donation from the Coastal Conservation Association and other partners’ donation of deployment materials, this new reef is focused on repurposing and reusing various outdated materials. The materials used to build the artificial reef site consist of obsolete concrete and metal pieces that would otherwise sit in a landfill, serving no purpose.

Instead, these supplies have been given a new life in hopes of becoming a new thriving sanctuary for aquatic plants and animals. Each piece of material has been thoroughly inspected to ensure it is clean and safe for the environment, is durable and stable, and is the proper design to attract various organisms. Creating artificial reef sites along the Texas coast is crucial to improving and enhancing the delicate marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information about TPWD’s Artificial Reef Program:

Additional photos can be found on the TPWD Flickr page.