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Artificial Reef Logo
Natural Coral Reef Formation off the Coast of Palm Beach 

​​Running parallel to Palm Beach County’s coast lies 47 miles of natural coral reef formations. These formations were created thousands of years ago and are part of Florida’s Coral Reef that stretches 360 miles from the St. Lucie Inlet to the Dry Tortugas.

Palm Beach County reefs are part of the largest coral reef ecosystem in the continental United States!

  

 

  Palm Beach County Reefs Logo Florida's Coral Reef Logo

Snorkelers Swmimming Above an Artificial Limestone Rock Reef 

For the past 40 years, Palm Beach County has created reef areas using various materials  to give people additional areas for fishing, diving, and snorkeling and to protect natural reefs from overuse.  These "artificial reefs" are most often made out of limestone, concrete, and occasionally decommissioned ships that become beautiful marine habitats for algae, corals, and other marine life.

ERM has deployed over 49 vessels, 110,000 tons of concrete, and 140​,000 tons of limestone boulders creating artificial reefs.

Email erm-reefs@pbcgov.org​ for more info.

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​Click he​re​ for a full screen map.

 

Click here for Google Maps. 

Natural Reefs just offshore Palm Beach County's coastline

Why Are Natural Reefs Important? 

Natural reefs provide the building blocks to support all other aquatic plants and animals that make southeast Florida reefs their home by providing shelter, supplying food, and offering refuge for young marine life to develop.

Natural reefs create recreational resources which attract people interested in diving, free-diving, snorkeling, and fishing. In Palm Beach County, natural and artificial reefs combined generate over $280 million dollars per year and support roughly 3,000 jobs annually.

Natural reefs protect our coastline by absorbing wave energy. This helps to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion – especially in strong storm events.

Artificial reef rock supporting marinelife such as snook 

Why Do We Need Artificial Reefs? 

Artificial reefs help natural reefs by serving as alternate areas for recreational use thus reducing pressure from SCUBA divers, free-divers, snorkelers, and anglers.
 
Artificial reefs become ​new substrate for coral settlement and diversify habitat in otherwise sandy areas. Once established, these reefs function like a natural reef system, providing food, shelter, protection, and spawning areas for marine life.
 
Artificial reefs support South Florida’s economy. In Palm Beach County alone, natural and artificial reefs combined generate over $280 million dollars per year and support roughly 3,000 jobs annually.
​​Concrete Sculpture of a Hammerhead Shark that was deployed as an artifical reef

How Do You Make Artificial Reefs? 

Artificial reef construction can only be completed by state or local coastal governments
(County or City) in authorized permitted areas.
​Various materials are used to create artificial reefs based on availability and regulatory permit requirements. Materials deployed in Palm Beach County include decommissioned steel-hulled ships, various types of concrete structures, and limestone rock. Each of these materials offers advantages for deployment, the ability to withstand the harsh ​marine environment, and unique habitat configurations to support diverse marine life.

​SHIPS
​​CONCRETE
 (Recycled materials and pre-fabricated modules)
​​LIMESTONE ROCK
Artificial Reef Ship the Ana Cecilia​​

Prefabricated Reef Module Limestone Rock Artificial Reef with Shark
  • ​​Deployed at depths offering deep water organisms habitat.
  • Provide a surface that hard corals quickly settle on​.
  • High vertical walls and large openings provide habitat areas for reef fish to aggregate and find shelter.​
  • Create upwelling conditions, current shadows, and changes in current direction and speed that attract schools of bait fish.
  • Reuses building materials (bridge railings, road culverts, concrete slabs) for habitat versus adding to landfills.
  • Provides a surface that hard corals quickly settle on forming a diverse habitat in a short amount of time.
  • Pre-fabricated modules can be designed for various life stages, biological communities, and users by altering design components. 
  • Closest to natural Anastasia rock which is the base of PBC’s natural reef system.
  • Nooks and crannies offer small marinelife shelter.
  • When deployed in shallow water, often become a nursery for juvenile fish to find refuge & food.
  • Nurse sharks and turtles love to sleep nestled around the base of limestone rock reefs.​​​​​​​
FLORIDA CORAL REEF PROTECTION ACT
​​​Makes it illegal to anchor on a natural reef because dragging an anchor along the sea fl​oo​r or dropping anchor 
on a natural reef can permanently dislodge corals and sponges. ​​

Always check the area for coral, seagrass, and other sensitive habitats before anchoring, either visually, from a nautical chart, or using the Southeast Florida Reefs Map​. If the anchor gets stuck, do not yank it. Move the vessel in the direction of the anchor while slowly pulling up the anchor chain until the vessel is directly above it, then proceed to pull it up vertically.


​​Image showing proper tie-up techniques to a mooring buoy

Help Our Reefs

 

When you can, tie up to one of the County’s four offshore MOORING BUOY sites!

Palm Beach County manages a ​system of mooring buoys at locations listed below so that boaters, divers, and fisherman can safely moor vessels 35 feet or smaller to protect offshore reefs. These buoys range from 12 feet to 25 feet deep, are available to the public for use on a first come, first serve basis,​ require no payment or fee,​​ are designed to handle only one boat at a time, and overnight mooring is prohibited.​

Diamondhead Radnor
2 Mooring Buoys
26°54.811' N, - 80°03.521' W ​

​Breakers Reef
16 mooring buoys
26°42.892' N, - 80°01.815' W 

 Mar-a-Lago
6 mooring buoys
​26°41.105' N, - 80°01.852' W 

Boca Raton Patch Reef
10 mooring Buoys
26°20.648' N - 80°03.914' W to 26°23.165' N, - 80°03.684' W


Follow These Steps to attach to a MOORING BUOY!    

1. Approach the buoy from down wind or current

 2. Retrieve the pick-up line with your boat hook

 3. ALWAYS pass your boat's bow-line through the eye of the pick-up line
NEVER tie the buoy directly to your boat's cleat

 4. Put out extra scope and cleat your bow-line off securely

For more info on Mooring Buoys in the region, please see this brochure on 
Pufferfish swimming at a Palm Beach County Artificial Reef Site

Who Pays for the Artificial Reefs?

Funding for the County’s artificial reef program comes from vessel registration fees, grants from federal and state agencies, and donations from fishing clubs​​, local dive associations, corporations, and individuals. Non-monetary support includes donated reef material such as old concrete, prefabricated reef modules, underwater art installations (pictured), and ships.​

WARNING: Many artificial reefs lie in water depths that exceed the recommended sport diving limitations. Any swimmer, diver, or snorkeler shall approach or visit each artificial reef at his or her own risk. The Palm Beach County Artificial Reef Program and Committee, the Board of County Commissioners of Palm Beach County, and the County of Palm Beach are not responsible for any hazards which may exist or arise on, about, or near the artificial reefs, or for any injuries or fatalities which may occur as a result of any person's presence on, about, or near the artificial reefs.