Florida’s coral reef is the only near-coastal extensive shallow reef formation in the continental United States. The reef spans 360 linear miles from the Dry Tortugas to the Saint Lucie Inlet and it’s total tourism value is typically about 6.1 billion dollars annually. Most of Florida’s sport fish spend substantial amounts of time on this reef. Increasing this habitat will allow more economically important fish to survive to adulthood and reproduce.
Artificial reefs are designed to increase the amount of solid structure available for corals to attach to. In doing so they replace natural reefs that are being destroyed. In addition, they create fishing and diving sights boosting Florida’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry, particularly in local economies. There are close to four thousand public artificial reefs in Florida, funded in part by the Florida Wildlife Commissions' Artificial Reef Program. These reefs are often made of concrete, limestone, heavy gauge steel, or sunken ships.
The west coast of Florida is currently home to the world's largest artificial reef, USS Orinsky. Its total area is 131,424 square feet; however it is located in 212 feet of water twenty two miles offshore. Despite its challenging location the sunken aircraft carrier has proven to be a tourist attraction due to its history and the ecosystem it supports.
There are instances of artificial reefs not only mitigating conditions that cause further beach erosion, but replenishing the beach to its pre-eroded state. The initial artificial reef has no intentions of affecting the waves breaking on the shoreline--or erosion; however, as the project develops more research will be conducted for the development of an additional reef that sculpts waves to improve surf and protect the beach.