Watch: A Florida Community Sinks a Ship to Protect Wildlife and Promote Adventure Tourism by Building an Artificial Reef

While humans play a significant role in the destruction of wildlife habitats, there are also efforts to restore and protect animals. This work happens firsthand when building an artificial reef. Most often, one of the first steps is sinking something like an old ship as the foundation for a reef.

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Local organizations and government agencies worked together to recently expand a reef by dropping a massive research vessel down into the Gulf of Mexico.

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Okaloosa County shared this video that shows the slowly sinking 239-foot-long boat. Named the R/V Deep Stim III, the vessel joined hundreds of other reefs already deployed off the Northwest coast of the Sunshine State. 

Officials say the work not only benefits wildlife but also tourism.

This collaborative effort is an example of excellence in Northwest Florida and a guide for future successes,” said Okaloosa County Board Chairman Paul Mixon in the county’s news release. “We look forward to many more opportunities that will allow our tourism industry to thrive while also creating a sustainable aquatic ecosystem benefitting marine life, tourists and locals.”

Local tourism officials say the reefs created often help increase adventure tourism. People love to dive around reefs for the abundant sea life. Expanding and growing reefs only create more safe havens for animals while making new places for divers and others to check out. 

This practice isn’t new. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association says, “Planned manmade reefs may provide local economic benefits because they attract fish to a known location and are therefore popular attractions for commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, and snorkelers.”

According to media reports, it’ll take about three to five years for the ship to truly become a reef. However, fish are expected to show up almost immediately.