In the next few months, the city of Mexico Beach and the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) will build 14 new artificial reefs off the coast of Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe with the support of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Bob Cox, President of the MBARA, announced that the City of Mexico Beach and MBARA was successful in winning two grants from FWC for a total of $120,000. 

Of that funding, $40,000 comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport-fish Restoration Program plus $80,000 from the State Legislature and FWC. In addition to the grants, MBARA will add a $45,000 cash match made possible with cash donations from its sponsors, members, and other fundraising efforts by its volunteers. 

Cox added that the MBARA’s annual Kingfish Tournament is one of largest and most successful fundraisers, netting more than $25,000 a year thanks to the ambitious efforts of tournament director, Ron Childs and all the volunteers that make it happen. Cox also mentioned that the MBARA’s memorial reef program has become very popular. In 2015, an approximate $15,000 will be added to the project raising the total to $180,000 with construction of the Billy Gillen memorial reef, Jimmy Stephens memorial reef, and enhancement of the John Thompson Memorial Reef. Memorial reefs are growing in popularity as a “green” and cost saving alternative to traditional burials.

This is an exciting time for the city of Mexico Beach and MBARA as this project marks a milestone of over two-million dollars invested in artificial reef construction off the shores of Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe. 

Cox recently attended the 2015 Florida Artificial Reef Summit and brought back some interesting facts.  First, Bay County was ranked second in the state with 88 reefs constructed over the past five years with Volusia County ranked first with 90 reefs constructed. According to Cox’s records, 69 of the 88 reefs in Bay County were constructed by the city of Mexico Beach and MBARA. Second, a new artificial reef economic impact study shows an averaged statewide annual return of $19 for every $1 invested in to artificial reefs. This includes interior communities realizing revenues connected to artificial reef use and users. The study also shows that the annual return is much higher in coastal communities that offer greater abundance of artificial reefs for a greater number of users from the local community and tourism.

The MBARA appreciates all its artificial reef program supporters from the city of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, FWC, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers for their cooperation enhancing a wonderful public resource benefiting our fisheries, economy, and environment. These cooperative endeavors will serve current and future generations well.

If you or your business is interested in helping MBARA with future reef construction projects, visit www.MBARA.org for information and contact its board of directors. MBARA is 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and donations are eligible for tax deductions.