Habitat Initiatives & Enhancement
Palm Beach County has experienced tremendous coastal growth over the last seventy-five years.
As a result, loss of natural marine and estuarine habitat, diminished water quality, increased fishing pressure and other environmental stressors have all contributed to a depletion of biodiversity and abundance. The PBCFF has identified and helped initiate specific projects designed to help improve our marine environment. In the 1960s, under the leadership of John Rybovich, the West Palm Beach Fishing Club created Palm Beach County’s first artificial reef. Today, the PBCFF remains actively involved and is a frequent partner with Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management on reef building projects. Another area of focus has been habitat enhancement in the Lake Worth Lagoon. Over 85% of this area’s mangrove fringe, mud flats, and oyster & sea grass beds have been destroyed or altered due to bulkhead development, dredge and fill operations and degraded water quality. The PBCFF regularly assists with mangrove and oyster enhancement projects. This program aiding local governmental efforts to improve the Lake Worth Lagoon represents cooperation with the private sector to benefit all taxpayers. The PBCFF has also established a coral reef restoration fund supporting response efforts to damaged reefs and the addition of mooring buoys that serve to limit impacts on the reef system. The potential to mitigate environmental damage and increase healthy habitat is significant. The PBCFF will continue to play an important role.
In 2017, the PBCFF initiated its Reef Dart program, an innovative reef building effort using repurposed concrete utility poles and culverts that might otherwise end up in area land fills. Surplus materials are donated by local contractors, utility companies, municipalities and the county. Financial donations from the private sector cover engineering, construction, monitoring and other costs. Palm Beach County, a project partner, handles permitting and deployment costs. When deployed, Reef Darts settle in a vertical orientation on the sea floor creating high profile marine fish habitat where none previously existed. Each Reef Dart weighs approximately 8 to 10 tons, some measuring over 45 feet in height. Reef Darts provide critical fish habitat and fishing reefs that can be deployed in all depths of water. Baitfish, amberjack, barracuda, snapper and grouper, along with invertebrates, are among the species benefitting from previous deployments.
Reef Dart sites have been established in two locations offshore Palm Beach County. Our goal is to continue to experiment and develop the Reef Dart program creating new habitat not only in shallow depths, but also deep water environments where additional hard structure habitat is critically needed for a variety of overfished species of fish. The PBCFF’s Reef Dart program is filling the need to develop a cost effective program that repurposes readily available material into valuable fish habitat thereby reducing pressure on natural reefs.