Wreck to Reef Update, August 2011

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The Wreck to Reef FEPA Deposit Licence Application has been submitted to the Marine Management Organisation and has been advertised and sent out for consultation to the various Statutory Authorities. A few minor amendments have been requested which we are currently addressing and we are hopeful that the licence will be in place this autumn.The licence covers all four reefs included within the W2R project; two ships, one lobster restocking reef and one quarry reef. This will cover a five year period.There has been a five year moratorium imposed in British waters on artificial reefs since HMS Scylla was scuttled near Plymouth in order to assess whether there is any detrimental effect on the environment. Monitoring and the subsequent report have now been passed to the Minister for the Environment and we are confidant that the Minister will lift the moratorium within the next few weeks due to the positive nature of the Scylla report. This will then clear the way for future artificial reefs in British waters, of which W2R is first in the queue.One of the concerns thrown up from the consultation was from the Portland Port Authority who were anxious that the W2R project did not conflict with either the Olympic Games or the preparations leading up to the Games. We have suggested that they agree to a phased FEPA Deposit Licence which will stipulate that no ships would be placed on the seabed until after the Olympic Games, 9th September, 2012, but that we would be allowed to place the lobster restocking reef this year in order that it has time to mature before the seeding of juvenile lobsters next year. This proposal has now been sent up to LOCOG for their views and at the time of writing we are awaiting their reply.Regarding the funding and clean-up of a Type 42 Destroyer, as mentioned in the last update, the Prime Minister David Cameron was approached with a view to sourcing us a ship through his ‘The Big Society’ drive. However, this philosophical initiative is proving to be intangible as far as we are concerned and we have simply been passed down to yet another minister, Mark Prisk MP Minister of State for Business and Enterprise who has suggested that we apply for a totally inappropriate grant that will lead us nowhere, waste more time but at least get us off his desk. Mark can now tell the PM’s Office that he has dealt with our request. Do I sound cynical? I should be forgiven. It is my view that if ministers devoted as much energy to solving problems such as our funding of a ship instead of sidestepping they would actually be contributing to the regeneration of the economy through grassroots projects that affect the community, such as ours. Ours is a simple message: “David, if ‘The Big Society’ truly exists, then provide us with a ship by governmental deed of gift to enable us to regenerate our Diving Industry, just like the Australian Government does in order to recycle their disused naval vessels”.

If any further proof is needed to confirm the immense economic benefit that artificial reefs produce, take a look at the recent press article below:

Study: Artificial Reefs Are Economic Boon; Enjoy Widespread Public Support
by Underwatertimes.com News Service – August 4, 2011 19:05 EST

GAINSVILLE, Florida — A newly released University of Florida study of artificial reef use in six southwest Florida counties shows the structures lure a lot more than fish.

The reefs, which provide habitat for popular sport fish and other marine life, pulled more than $253 million into the region during one year, the study found. Though it costs nothing more than a saltwater fishing license to use the submerged structures as a fishing spot, anglers spend money on food, lodging, fuel, tackle and other necessities.

The UF and Florida Sea Grant study looked at money generated by artificial reefs in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties in 2009. Researchers found that $136 million came from residents, while $117 million was spent by visitors.
Bob Swett, the UF associate professor and Florida Sea Grant extension specialist who led the study, said he was struck most by the contrast between the income generated and the small amount counties invest in the reefs — ranging from $20,000 to $60,000 a year for each county, with some years requiring little to no spending. The reefs also enjoy private support, such as local marine contractors who donate materials and in-kind labor. “That shows me that there’s a lot of bang for the buck, if you will, in terms of what they get out of the artificial reef programs,” said Swett, also a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Chris Neal, who works for the Scuba Quest dive shop chain’s Sarasota location, said his company frequently takes groups of divers out to artificial reefs because the man-made structures allow divers to see such a wide variety of fish and wildlife.”You can see all kinds of fish – flounder, hogfish, snapper and grouper,” he said.
Besides asking residents about their reef-related spending, the UF researchers also asked boaters who use reefs and those who do not their opinions about spending public money to build and maintain the structures, which are typically underwater piles of large, hollow concrete blocks where fish can hide.
While users were more likely to support such spending (county responses ranged from 83 percent to 95 percent, in favor), Swett said he was also impressed by non-reef users’ enthusiasm. Their support for spending public money on reefs ranged from 61 percent to 71 percent.
Artificial reefs are used for a number of activities, among them: enhancing recreational and charter fishing and diving, boosting reef fish populations and aiding scientific research.

Florida’s artificial reef program, created in 1982, includes more than 2,500 documented artificial reefs in the state’s coastal waters. About one-third of them were the subject of the recent economic study.

Other survey highlights: on average, more than 5,600 southwest Florida residents use artificial reefs every day; for-hire fishing enterprises, including fishing guides, charter boats and party boats, accounted for nearly $90 million in spending, and artificial reefs support more than 2,500 full- and part-time jobs.
The researchers used a combination of mail, telephone and email to collect survey responses.

The study was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the West Coast Inland Navigation District and the participating counties. Besides Swett, the research team included Chuck Adams, a marine economics professor; Sherry Larkin, associate professor in resource economics, extension scientist Alan Hodges and postdoctoral associate Thomas J. Stevens.

The full report, “Economic Impacts of Artificial Reefs for Six Southwest Florida Counties,” is available atwww.flseagrant.org.

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