The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) recently celebrated its one year anniversary. During MARI’s first year, the coalition of more than 50 conservation, businesses, and government partners successfully raised more than $1.4 million to support the creation and monitoring of artificial reefs for fish habitat throughout Maryland’s waters.
“Creating fish habitat not only helps to restore the Chesapeake Bay, but also benefits recreational opportunities and our local economy,” said Bill Goldsborough, Maryland Artificial Reef Committee Chairman and Chesapeake Bay Foundation Fisheries Program Director.
“MARI’s efforts this past year placed more artificial reef base material to improve marine habitat than in the previous decade,” said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. “We are thankful for the leadership and support of so many private businesses and conservation organizations partnering together on this effort.”
The creation of three-dimensional reefs emulates historic vibrant marine communities, such as oyster beds and coral reefs, critical to supporting diverse species of fish that were once prolific in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland’s Atlantic coast. Collaborating with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, the MARI deployed more than 50,000 tons of concrete material from the old Woodrow Wilson Bridge to create four major reef sites: Point No Point off St. Mary’s County; Cedar Point at the mouth of the Patuxent River; Tangier Sound off Crisfield; and the Gooses Reef just west of the Little Choptank River. Monitoring by divers and fishery biologists indicates that invertebrate communities and multiple species of fish have started to inhabit all four of the reef sites.
“Recreational anglers, charter boat captains and fishing guides have already reported catching striped bass, bluefish and croakers at Point No Point and other reef sites, which is a testament to the ecological and economic benefits of MARI,” said Capt. C.D. Dollar, a member of the state’s Artificial Reef Committee and a Chesapeake Bay fishing guide. “In a relatively short time, these reefs are quickly providing much needed quality fish habitat, and will only improve with time.”
During its first year the MARI also created a science-based artificial reef plan for Maryland’s waters to guide future efforts. Additionally, an Artificial Reef Committee was established to advise the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and make recommendations for artificial reef priorities and funding expenditures.
Over the next year, MARI partners look forward to their first major artificial reef projects off Maryland’s Atlantic coast, including up to five reef sites off Ocean City, Md. Using a new documentary and promotional DVD created by world-renown underwater filmmaker, Nick Caloyianis, MARI partners will continue to raise public awareness and financial donations to support fish habitat restoration through artificial reefs.
More than 50 partnering entities including the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Legislative Sportsman’s Foundation and Caucus, Honeywell, Inc., Dominion Energy, Mitchell-Petersen Foundation, Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, Shell Oil, and British Petroleum, as well as conservation organizations, businesses, foundations, outdoor recreational organizations, and countless individuals have provided resources to make this program possible.
Individuals can help with reef projects across the State by “buying a ton” via a tax-deductible donation to the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative. The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative was created in early 2007 to raise funds to facilitate development of marine habitat enhancement projects. For more information visit www.ccamd.org/MARI/MARI_home.htm.